The native Lenape people, who inhabited the area that is known as New York City today, first encountered the French. It was Giovanni da Verrazzano, commander of the French ship la Dauphine, who sailed into Upper New York bay and made contact with the people he found there. He anchored for a single night and continued his voyage onward. This was in 1524.
A full century later the Dutch would found a fur trading outpost in the area that most people know as Lower Manhattan. The Dutch called this area New Amsterdam, perhaps following the lead of the French (who had called New York “New Angouleme” in honor of the birthplace of King Francis I).
The abundant beaver population in the area was what drew European attention. They’d first been noticed by Henry Hudson, an Englishman sailing on behalf of the Dutch East India Company. He was seeking passage to Asia, but he ran into New York instead. Beaver pelts were a fashion accessory during that time in Europe, and Hudson saw a lucrative opportunity there.
By 1626, Fort Amsterdam is said to have been constructed, although a precise date is hard to pinpoint. This also began an ugly side of New York’s history: slavery. The Dutch used African slaves to build walls that were used to defend from attacks against the English and the native Lenape people.
Tensions were high, and the Dutch wanted profit from the region. They sent a man named William Kieft, who promptly attempted to get the natives to pay for protection from rival groups. When they refused, he massacred 80 of them in Pavonia as punishment.
Following this brutal display, Lenape and Algonquin united to drive out the Dutch. They would have succeeded if Holland had not sent reinforcements to the region.