"Mannahatta” translates to “island of hills,” and the rocky wasteland to the north had to be surveyed to perfection, and private roads, farms, and pastures wrestled into order by a ruthless eminent domain.
You can read about this wonderful process, a process that resulted in the center of the human world, in this book:
But as much as I love Manhattan, I have to admit it essentially is, to use the words of the Marxist urban theorist David Harvey, a gated community. It turns out that the poor do not live in the best place to be poor. The mental, health, and cultural benefits of density are enjoyed mostly by those in the upper classes. And this is where Manhattan fails and, as Edward Glaeser soberly points out in his book Triumph of the City, Houston succeeds. Houston, an inefficient and generally dumb city, is much friendlier to working class people than smart and efficient Manhattan. Glaeser blames this situation on the kind of urban thinking that's inspired by Jane Jacobs. In Houston, it is easy to build, to grow; in Manhattan, it is not. The slowness of the city's development has put pressure on the value of the existing housing stock. Though I do not totally agree with all of Glaeser's arguments (he is after all a Friedmanite), he is correct to point out that a city which lacks poor and working-class people is a city that is doing something wrong.