The area between Erie Basin and Columbia Street was home to a makeshift shantytown community known as Tin City, made up largely of unemployed and under-employed maritime workers in the 1920s and 30s. In the winter of 1932, the Brooklyn Eagle reported that there conditions were made increasingly harsh from a lack of fire wood to burn for warmth and cooking.
Norwegians made up a large portion of the area's population of about 500, and were among the first to build shelters there, but Danes, Irish, Poles, Russians, Italians and Americans - including a growing Puerto Rican colony lived and competed for jobs and wood there. Older residents of Tin City grumbled that newcomers kept to themselves and accept water-front jobs at extremely low wages.
●Transcription of article:
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 4 1932
Tin City' Folks Gird for Dreariest Winter
One Meal a Day is the Average Fare of Denizens Who Miss Wood for their Home Made Stoves
Before daybreak life begins there. In the white mist that blows off the Bay about 4 a.m., dim shapes emerge from huts that seem part of the earth. Silently they fade into the darkness, leaving the place deserted.
The able-bodied men of "Tin City" have gone in search of work, or, failing that, firewood and food with which to sustain life.
They have to leave early because, as a weathered Swedish seaman put it yesterday, "it's the ones that get there first that gets the jobs."
Sitting in his cleverly contrived shack of tin cans on the city-owned dump in Red Hook, the seaman told how the 500 unemployed who live there are facing what they expect will be the worst Winter since the settlement came into existence two years ago.
"It's wood we can't get," he said. "We all have little stoves we built ourselves but lots of times we can't get anything to burn in them. I went down to the shore early this morning, but all I could find was a couple of wet sticks that washed up during the night. The Porto Ricans had been there before me."
A Porto Rican colony is the newest addition to the population of the four-acre tract between Erie Basin and Columbia St. About 150 of them, counting wives and children, have constructed neat shacks of tin cans, odd hits of wood and other flotsam and jetsam.
There is a slight feeling of resentment against newcomers, since they keep to themselves and accept water-front jobs at extremely low wages, older residents grumbled.
Most of the inhabitants of "Tin City," known also as “The Dump," "Prosperity City" and "Hoover town," are seamen who were able to make a steady living until two or three years ago. They include Norwegians, Danes, Irish, Poles, Russians, Italians and Americans.
The Salvation Army, assisted by the Emergency Unemployment Relief Committee, furnishes food for them whenever it is able. But most of the time' the men have to "rustle" for their own provender through getting a few hours work at odd times. One meal a day is about the average resident's lot.
However, there are a number of seamen's missions and other charitable institutions located nearby and a few "Tin City" residents are given a daily meal at these places.
The Bethesda Mission, at 22 Woodhull St., serves an average of 197 meals a day. It served more than 9,000 meals during November. The Seamen's Mission at 33 1st Place also feeds about the same number of sailors, while food tickets from the Mayor's Committee are distributed at Public School 46, Union St.. near Henry St.
Coal and food tickets from the Mayor's Committee also are distributed at the Hamilton Avenue Police Precinct station. Last week the police station gave out 200 tickets worth from $2 to $4.
But most of the coal goes to regular residents of the Red Hook section, not to the "Tin City" dwellers so that their greatest need in the coming months is for fuel of some sort.