21 September 2009

not so new new york: the mannahatta project

New York City is no place for the weak: filled with strange and wild things, being in the Big Apple means being alert, aware, and able to adapt to our constantly changing surroundings. But was it always like this? Was NYC always a land of noise and danger, or, before the pavement was laid and a Duane Reade dotted every corner, was this once a kinder, gentler place? A place of calm and quiet? A place without Papaya Dog or Fifth Avenue? A place...of nature?

According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, New York's always been a bit of a dangerous place - but not as we think of it today. Rather than rogue taxis and shady peddlers, wild bobcats and swooping hawks preyed on the meek as part of an urban jungle we'll never know: America's busiest hub of diversity was once a center of biodiversity equal to that of Yellowstone or the Great Smoky Mountains. In an epic endeavor helmed by ardent conservationist and landscape ecologist Dr. Eric Sanderson, The Mannahatta Project sought to unveil just how much the human touch had altered the original landscape of NYC's most famed borough. Using historic maps, landscape ecology, and a geographic information system, Dr. Sanderson and his (extensive) team gradually rolled the clock back 400 years to 1609, the year Henry Hudson navigated his way into New York Bay to reveal an island inhabited by beavers, salamanders, oak trees, and the Lenape people.

According to Dr. Sanderson, the Mannahatta Project allows people to

"discover ways in which we can restore some of the ecological processes lost to NYC in particular, and...how to create cities that are more 'livable' for people...Making cities more pleasant and rich places for people to live will increase city folks’ standard of living, attracting more people to cities and minimizing sprawl development between cities where the ecological gems, the “Mannahattas” of today, currently reside."
Visit www.themannahattaproject.org to see the Manhattan that is and was and to find out more ways to get involved in ecological restoration and the 400th anniversary of New York City.

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