If You Buy This 359-Year-Old Deed, Would You Own Manhattan?

Good morning. It’s Monday. We’ll look at three documents that cleared the way for the British to take New Amsterdam from the Dutch in the 17th century. We’ll also meet the first owner of a retail marijuana shop whose past includes a marijuana-related conviction.

Credit…via Sotheby’s

The answer to the question is no.

If you bought the 1664 deed — officially, a charter laying claim to a great deal of land — you would not own Manhattan.

If you could turn the calendar back 359 years, you would have controlled it — and territory as far north as Maine, said Richard Austin, the global head of books and manuscripts at Sotheby’s, the auction house that is selling the charter and two later documents this week. But the owner would have been the Duke of York, later King James II.

And you probably would have needed soldiers. Richard Nicolls, whom the duke sent to carry out the takeover from the Dutch, arrived with nearly 2,000 “fighting men,” according to “Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898.” Nicolls’s stated mission was to win the “entyre submission and obedience” of New Amsterdam, whose residents became New Yorkers after Nicolls changed the second word in the town’s name to honor guess which duke.

The charter directed “the Inhabitants of the said Lands, Islands & Places” in New Netherland to “Give Obedience” to Nicolls, but ownership remained firmly in royal hands. The duke “saw immediately that the jewel in North America was New York because of the trading the Dutch had been doing,” Austin said. “It was already a commercial melting pot. This is why he wanted the English to control Manhattan.”

Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, in “Gotham,” added an important strategic reason: Controlling New Amsterdam “would also give Britain an invaluable base of operations against the French in Canada and their Indian allies.”

Peter Stuyvesant, the Dutch governor, tried to resist but lacked the personnel and support. More than 90 Dutch colonists, including his own 17-year-old son, signed a petition endorsing the line of least resistance against the British. And the Duke of York intended Nicolls to be magnanimous, all things considered. Nicolls’s orders included preserving the colonists’ rights to property and religious freedom.

The duke signed the two other documents in the Sotheby’s sale in 1674, two years after a Dutch squadron retook New York during an Anglo-Dutch war. But the Dutch handed New York back to the English when the war ended, and the duke appointed Major Edmund Andros as the colonial governor.

Andros “seemed to share James’s idea that the trade that would happen out of Manhattan would be an extraordinary part of the English empire,” Austin said.

It was Andros who made English the official language of the courts, although proceedings in areas where Dutch was dominant were also recorded in that language, and the English system of jury trials became the norm.

Andros tangled with colonial leaders in Connecticut and Massachusetts and with political opponents in New York, who maintained that he gave Dutch merchants preferred treatment. Andros lost his job, but not the royals’ confidence. He went on to spend three years as governor of New England and, after James’s death in 1688, six years as governor of Virginia and one as governor of Maryland. “We’re New York,” Austin said. “It was probably the toughest place to rule.”

Andros apparently hung on to the three documents, as did his descendants until they sold them in 1977, Austin said. The buyer was David Karpeles, a collector who had amassed a huge collection of historical documents and opened museums around the United States before his death last year at age 85. Austin said Karpeles bought the three documents for about £10,000, the equivalent of $68,008 in today’s dollars.


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In effect until Feb. 13 (Lincoln’s Birthday).

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A marijuana store run by a former marijuana offender

Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

As pop-up stores go, it’s unusual. Only one other store in New York State sells what it will sell.

And that store is not owned by someone who was convicted on a charge that involved the same merchandise that he will sell — with the state’s blessing — starting Tuesday.

It’s a marijuana store called Smacked LLC, on Bleecker Street between LaGuardia Place and Thompson Street. It’s the latest sign of a major state policy shift. After decades of criminalizing marijuana, New York is helping a newly sanctioned industry that is expected to generate billions in revenue.

Even so, the state barely met its goal of opening at least one retail dispensary in 2022 with the debut of Housing Works Cannabis Co, run by the nonprofit Housing Works, on Dec. 29.

The new Bleecker Street store, Smacked LLC, is owned by Roland Conner, 50, one of 28 people who have been awarded conditional licenses reserved for those who were convicted on charges involving marijuana in a New York court and who went on to run profitable businesses. That provision was intended to provide opportunities to people in communities that were targeted during the war on drugs. (Stores run by nonprofits like the Housing Works dispensary are in a separate category.)

Conner was convicted in 1991 on charges that included marijuana possession. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office said he has owned property management companies in New York City for 15 years. For the last six, he has managed a facility that provides emergency housing in the Bronx.

Conner is receiving financial help from a public-private partnership set up to assist marijuana entrepreneurs. Licensees like Conner can open for a short time to generate capital, close to build out their stores and then reopen for good.

Conner told my colleague Ashley Southall, who is covering the emerging cannabis industry, that he had applied for a license at the urging of his son, Darius Conner, 26, who was still part of what is known as the legacy market — the marijuana trade that existed before legalization.

Roland Conner said there were several reasons he applied for a license. One was that he was qualified. That might sound straightforward, but it’s not. Many applicants with past marijuana convictions were disqualified because they could not show that they had run businesses and made money doing so. He had.

Another reason was that it was an opportunity to pull his son out of the legacy market, which is still subject to enforcement. Darius Conner was traveling back and forth to Florida, activity that carries the risk of arrest in the states he passed through, or even federal charges. Going legal was a way for Roland to protect Darius.

Roland Conner also sensed an opportunity. New York is the most coveted cannabis market in the country. He saw the opportunity to get in first — and in Manhattan — as a huge advantage.

He said that as someone who had been convicted over cannabis, he was initially skeptical of the state’s plan to give people like him first dibs in the new legal market. But he said his experience with state regulators had convinced him that they intended to break with the past.


On consignment

Dear Diary:

When I was in my 20s and hustling to support myself in Manhattan, I consigned clothes: leather overcoats, platform shoes, granny handbags, usually secondhand items that I aspired to turn into thirdhand tokens toward paying my rent.

Cobblestones on Ninth Street in the East Village was my go-to shop. I got to know the proprietor, Delanee Koppersmith, a modern-looking woman stuck in yesteryear.

She had a working rotary phone on her tiny antique desk, played AM radio oldies and offered wall-to-wall vintage wares.

On a weekend or maybe an early evening after work, I’d pop into the cluttered boutique to browse, hands folded behind my back, chat, maybe buy something, and occasionally, sell something. Usually, it was for a paltry amount, but an honest exchange nonetheless.

Fast forward 30 years. Visiting the East Village with a friend, we ambled down Second Avenue on a cool, leafy Saturday afternoon.

“Let’s see if my favorite store is still here,” I said.

Sure enough, it was, and Delanee looked the same, with her pouf of dark brown hair and deep brown eyes.

She greeted me casually, as if we had seen each other just the week before.

“Hello, young lady,” she said. “I have something for you.”

She pulled out a rubber-banded stack of tattered 3 x 5 cards, thumbed through them, jotted a check mark next to one and handed me 11 bucks.

— Ali Pearlman

Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.

Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.

Melissa Guerrero and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].


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