From the (1939) WPA Guide to New York City:
Fulton Ferry, a water-front hamlet in Brooklyn's earliest days, is now a small isolated sector of musty, dilapidated buildings nestling in the shadows of the Brooklyn Bridge. The settlement was formed around the ferry landing: beginning with Cornelis Dircksen's regular rowboat crossings in 1642, a number of boat lines operated from both sides of the river, until finally all were merged under the ownership of the New York and Brooklyn Ferry Company in 1839. Before Robert Fulton introduced his steam ferry Nassau in 1814, crossings were made in row boats, flat scows with sprit sails, piraguas, and boats propelled by horses walking on treadmills. The last ferry stopped running in 1924.
In the early part of the nineteenth century there was a cluster of houses, taverns stables, shanties, and stores at Fulton Ferry. The region, originally called "the Ferry," later "Old Ferry" (when a new ferry was established at the foot of Main Street in 1796), blossomed into a pleasant residential neighborhood. The construction of the Brooklyn Bridge destroyed its beauty and the neighborhood became a slum. Fulton Street, in this section, is now a sort of Brooklyn Bowery, with flophouses, small shops, rancid restaurants, haunted by vagabonds and derelicts. Talleyrand once lived in a Fulton Street farmhouse opposite Hicks Street, and Tom Paine in a house at the corner of Sands and Fulton Streets.
70 Fulton Street, southwest corner of Cranberry Street, is the site of the print shop in which Walt Whitman in 1855 set up type for his Leaves of Grass, a fact commemorated by a bronze tablet on the west wall (facing Cranberry Street) of the present building. In view of the poet's close association with this section during the early part of his life, the name ''Walt Whitman Plaza" has been urged by civic bodies for the new plaza that extends to the Brooklyn Bridge.