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 New York Sun 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 around 150 Puerto Ricans who lived and competed for jobs and wood there.
●Transcription of the article:
The New York Sun, Friday, January 6, 1933
Inhabitants of the Squatter Camps Trying to Pull Through the Winter
Over in Brooklyn the camp is called, Tin city and is in the Red Hook section. Most of the shacks are covered with tin from old cans which have been flattened and nailed over rude construction. At the foot of Columbia street, a Porto Rican colony has been established and in it there are about 150 men, women and children. In the whole camp there are about five hundred persons. Stoves are common in the shacks, but fuel is hard to get. The inhabitants patrol the water front to pick the driftwood, and they are supplied with coal off and on, but when the real cold days come many of the small houses are without heat .
Most of the men making up this camp are sailors and first-class seamen. some of them have lived there for the two years the camp has been in existence. They take all the work they can get, but shipping is slow, and they are fitted to do little outside that. However, they rustle their food and fuel and manage to get along well. A drainage system has been installed and the Health Department's agents see to it that things are kept sanitary