As the Gowanus Canal empties into the bay, to the west is the Red Hook neighborhood which was originally settled by the Dutch in 1636 and was later annexed into Brooklyn. After the American Civil War, developer and railroad contractor William Beard (1806-1886) initiated the development of what has been marshland into Erie Basin, a man-made harbor and storage depot that began the boom in Brooklyn dock activity. After WW-II, dock activity diminished considerably with the advent of containerization and the movement of most port shipping to New Jersey. The neighborhood was also cut off from Brooklyn with the opening of the Cross-Bronx Distressway and the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, and had no subway service, leaving it perennially depressed and, untimately, ripe for adventurously greedy developers during the building boom of the early 2000s. In 2006 Fairway opened a grocery store in the Civil-War-era Red Hook Stores building. In 2008, the furniture store Ikea opened an outlet on the site of the former Todd Shipyards.
For more info on Red Hook, including historic photos, see Forgotten-NY.com and RedHookWaterfront.com