On September 11, 1609, Henry Hudson, a British explorer sailing the Halve Maen at the behest of the East India Company, discovered the areas we now know as New York Harbor and Manhattan Island.
Dutch settlers quickly followed, and New York began to exist as a series of farms, the names of which (Delancey and Styuvesant are a few) live on in modern streets and neighborhoods. To get a sense of how the island’s topography evolved, might we suggest spending some time perusing the New York Public Library’s Early Real Estate Atlas collection? It’ll tell you who owned which farms, when they began to lay out the grid, and what early structures were made out of.
19th century print commemorating the discovery of Manhattan, NYPL.