One of my more popular tours-- and a favorite of mine to do!-- is my Industrial Brooklyn tour.
This is a great 3-hour walking tour through the two key neighborhoods to Brooklyn's industrial past. Both Gowanus and Red Hook were settled by the Dutch colonists of New Amsterdam/New Netherlands in 1636. The latter community, basis for numerous works on the shipping industry such as "On The Waterfront", once housed the busiest shipping port in the entire United States. The Battle of Brooklyn (aka, the Battle of Long Island) took place in this region during the Revolutionary War.
In the 1840s, the deepening of Gowanus Creek to build the Gowanus Canal, and the formal street layout in Red Hook by the then-independent City of Brooklyn transformed these neighborhoods into high-industrial, working-class communities. The decline of American industry a little over 100 years later saw slow declines for these areas in turn. By 1990, Red Hook had turned so downward, Life magazine called it one of the worst neighborhoods in the country and the "crack capital of the United States". Over in Gowanus, the waste disposal of the industry there (gas plants, tanneries, chemical plants, paint factories, sulfur producers, & more) had rendered the Gowanus Canal into a toxic mess. In 2010, the EPA had declared the canal a Superfund cleanup site.
But today, these neighborhoods have seen a massive resurgence. Rents are rising and development is growing. Both communities have seen an influx of artists, craftsmen, and families. In Gowanus, adventurers canoe the canal, old warehouses give way to high-rise luxury rentals, and a Whole Foods has arrived, with a rooftop greenhouse and specialized local goods. In Red Hook, the old warehouses have found new life: a Tesla showroom, chocolate factories, small-batch wineries and whiskey distilleries, glass-blowers, metalworks, and numerous artist co-working spaces. Fantastic restaurants are growing in both neighborhoods. Red Hook's waterfront park also marks the closest point of land in all of NYC to the Statue of Liberty, and is beloved for is sweeping views of New York harbor and downtown Manhattan.
Touring these neighborhoods is a journey into Brooklyn's past and a great peek into how manufacturing in America hasn't disappeared; it's just gone local.
I love these communities dearly, and I would love to pass on that passion to you.