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The Mannahatta Project

November 5, 2009

Cover of Sanderson's _Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City_ (New York: Abrams, 2009)

Sarah’s post on the Bronx Concourse brought to mind The Mannahatta Project.  I’m not sure if anyone else has heard of it, but The Mannahatta Project is the brainchild of Dr. Eric Sanderson.  Together with the Wildlife Conservation Society, Sanderson, a landscape ecologist, has mapped out what the island of Manhattan looked like (its terrain, its wildlife, etc.) prior to Hudson’s arrival in 1609.

“The goal of the Mannahatta Project has never been to return Manhattan to its primeval state. The goal of the project is discover something new about a place we all know so well, whether we live in New York or see it on television, and, through that discovery, to alter our way of life. New York does not lack for dystopian visions of the future…. But what is the vision of the future that works? Might it lie in Mannahatta, the green heart of New York, and with a new start to history, a few hours before Hudson arrived that sunny afternoon four hundred years ago?”
– Eric Sanderson, Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City (New York: Abrams, 2009)
I first came across The Mannahatta Project when it was featured in a recent issue of National Geographic.  The website for the project is really interesting and fun to play with.  I spent a little time on the site last night and just wanted to share it with you guys.  The interactive map in the “explore” section is pretty cool.  You can type in a modern Manhattan address or landmark (such as Times Square) and the map will show you the location in 1609.  As you pass your mouse over the map, orange outlines appear.  Click on one and a box pops up giving you the opportunity to learn about the landscape, wildlife, and human habitat suitability of that block in both 1609 and 2009.  There are plenty of other things to do and read on the site, too; it’s pretty comprehensive.
“Understanding the ecology of Mannahatta helps us bring into focus the ecology of Manhattan today and plan for the urban ecosystem of the future, while at the same time enabling us to reflect upon the value of the wild ‘Mannahattas’ that still exist in the world.”
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