Long ago, Manhattan was a fertile island loaded with wild elk, bears, birds, old growth trees, natural meadows, beautiful rocky cliffs and plenty of ponds, brooks and streams. In his book, Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City, ecologist Eric Sanderson writes:
If Mannahatta existed today as it did then, it would be a national park. It would be the crowning glory of American national parks.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the rivers and streams that have been long covered by our daily hullaballoo matter again. As flood waters rose, so too did the hidden banks of those all but forgotten bubbling brooks of water, but now into the basements and sub-basements of some of the city’s most expensive and celebrated buildings. You can read about some of that here on Curbed and Scouting New York. But we also thought it would be interesting to include this interactive version of Egvert Viele’s 1865 map of New York City’s grid overlaying the original streams, lakes, rivers and hills of good-old Mannahatta.
Take a minute to zoom in and out, swipe up, down, left and right. My building in the East Village sits on a swamp between a couple of streams that flowed into the East River. Pretty much all of Tribeca west of Church was either a swamp or THE Hudson River. Midtown was a full-on maze of brooks, streams and knolls. What lurks beneath your building? Let us know.