The termination of Old Fulton Street was the site of the original ferry linking Brooklyn to Manhattan in 1642. A village subsequently grew up around the around the ferry landing, known as “het Veer” or “the Ferry.” The village became incorporated into the town of Breuckelen four years later. By the time of the American Revolution, the area around the ferry landing had been developed as a busy marketplace with industries such as slaughterhouses, breweries, and businesses such as shops, inns and taverns.
The construction of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883 was a significant engineering feat and served as the first physical link between the independent cities of Brooklyn and New York (which were later consolidated in 1898). However it led to the demise of the ferries, which were the lifeblood of the Fulton Ferry Landing area.
In 1900, the New York Dock Company consolidated almost all of the waterfront property between Fulton Street and Erie Basin. At its peak, the New York Dock Co. owned or managed over 40 piers and approximately 150 stores and warehouses, making it the largest private freight terminal in the world.
The site of Brooklyn Bridge Park was a thriving public waterfront through the first half of the 20th Century. However, in the 1950's, shipping in the area began a steady decline in use as New York's older port areas lost ground to container shipping and to competition from other east coast cities. In addition, in the 1950's the construction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway created an approximately 60-foot-high elevated structure parallel to Furman Street that fully separated the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood from the waterfront. By the late 1970's, Piers 1-6 were primarily serving as warehouses and generating only modest levels of revenue for the Port Authority. In 1983, the Port Authority ceased cargo ship operations on Piers 1-6.