The Mannahatta Project

Tuesday last, I had lunch with Dr. Eric Sanderson, the head of the Mannahatta Project, at the Bronx Zoo. (Yes, my job has some perks, if you’re willing to travel an hour roundtrip on the 2 Line to get to them.) The project, sponsored by the Wildlife Conservation Society, aims “to reconstruct the ecology of Manhattan when Henry Hudson first sailed by in 1609 and compare it to what we know of the island today. The Mannahatta Project will help us to understand, down to the level of one city block, where in Manhattan streams once flowed or where American Chestnuts may have grown, where black bears once marked territories, and where the Lenape fished and hunted. Most history books dispense with the pre-European history of New York in only a few pages. However, with new methods in geographic analysis and the help of a remarkable 18th-century map, we will discover a new aspect of New York culture, the environmental foundation of the city.”

Sanderson wants Manhattanites to think of the future of the city by understanding its past. We at Planetary find this laudable in the extreme. Because the Mannahatta Project plans to coordinate its rollout with the quadricentennial of the European discovery of Manhattan in 1609, there is a strong possibility that it will make future appearances in this here blog.


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