GBX-Gowanus Bay Terminal is on a historic maritime site which has had several significant iterations. More on those below. GBX’s website says it is a multi-user industrial facility with an emphasis on community, environment, and sustainability."
Contemporary uses under GBX management have continually evolved since the site was purchased from the Port Authority in the early 1990s. In addition to industrial tenants and maritime tenants, the site is currently marketed as a backdrop for special productions, film and video shoots and rave-style parties.
As of September, 2016, maritime uses included the tenants Vane Brothers, the historic ferry YANKEE, and a historic schooner undergoing conversation to a floating oyster bar plus GBX's own former floating cement silo, the bulk ship LOUJAINE. GBX has been the site of several community art performances and productions.
The property's waterspace was historically known as the Brooklyn Basin. In 1920, construction began on a massive grain elevator, which still stands, and the huge Columbia Street Pier, which no longer does. This was the New York State grain terminal and a terminus for the Erie Canal. It opened to great fanfare but had a short working life as a grain terminal due to growing competition from railroads in New Jersey.
Adjacent land had been reserved for a railyard that was never built, and that land became a squatter colony in the late 1920s, a rough home for many Norwegian sailors abandoned in New York by failed shipping lines. The camp became known to Norwegians as Ørkenen Sur (Bitter Dessert).
The squatter camp was cleared out and adjacent land was incorporated into the development that became the Parks Department Red Hook ballfields and pool.
Photos of the Columbia Street pier shortly before demolition are in the Library of Congress are here.