9. Red Hook Grain Terminal
It’s been nearly fifty years since freighters docked at the Red Hook Grain Terminal. Now black mold overspreads its concrete silos like a mourning veil. Its origins can be traced to the 20th-century construction of the New York State Barge Canal, which widened and rerouted the Erie Canal to facilitate the latest advances in shipping. By 1918, New York City was lagging behind in the nation’s grain trade and the canal was failing, operating at only 10 percent of its capacity. This state-run grain elevator in the bustling industrial waterfront of Red Hook, Brooklyn was built in the Port of New York to invigorate the underused waterway. The structure is largely composed of 54 circular silos with a combined capacity of two million bushels. In its heyday, grain was mechanically hoisted from the holds of ships, elevated to the top of the terminal, and dropped into vertical storage bins through a series of moveable spouts.
In the second half of the 20th century, the collapse of the grain trade was just a portion of the overall decline along Red Hook’s industrial waterfront as shipping methods evolved and moved elsewhere. When the jobs dried up, much of the area cleared out, leaving a slew of vacant warehouses and decaying docks. The Grain Terminal has been the subject of a number of reuse proposals over the years, but none of the plans have amounted to real progress at the site. The building sits on the grounds of the Gowanus Industrial Park, which currently houses a container terminal and a bus depot, among other industrial tenants.