Lower Manhattan: a land of rich forests and marshland.

If you imagine the landscape without the buildings of the last few hundred years, it's hard to see that this green island will become New York City. Manahatta, the "hilly island," is the land of the Lenape people. 

The Dutch colonized the island as New Amsterdam in 1626, eventually forcing the Lenape to leave Manhattan. The first residents of the Greene Street block on record were four "half-free" slaves: Gratia D’Angola, Pieter Van Campen, Marycke, and Anthony Portuguese. They were given parcels of land by the Dutch in the 1640s, to serve as buffer against fighting with the Lenape. 

When the Dutch lost a colonial war with the English in 1667, authorities in the Netherlands had to choose between their profitable slave-run sugar plantations in Suriname or their colony in America. The Dutch chose sugar and Suriname -- the British took control and the land became part of New York.

Surprise 1: the Dutch expect New York to be less profitable than Suriname.