In a recent essay for Salon, writer Cari Luna wonders how low-earning young people can afford New York, shouting out the "20-somethings living six to a room in Bushwick or whatever the hell they’re doing to get by."
Actually, no. They're living ten to a boat in East Williamsburg.
Or were, we should say. The New York Post reports that 10 individuals (the author alternates between "hipsters," "artists," and "denizens"—just choose your favorite descriptor) have been forced off of a boat-turned-"squatter-style crash pad" floating in Brooklyn's Maspeth Creek, where they set up camp for an unspecified length of time. Could this be the hip, new way to defeat Brooklyn's swiftly rising cost of living? Cited for "living on an abandoned vessel," these characters seem to have been in it for the long haul—they went so far as to build a Jacuzzi and ample bedrooms on the toxic estuary:
The drifters had rigged electricity and a makeshift plumbing system in the four-floor, 145-foot-long boat, which sometimes hosted all-night parties in the industrial area, sources familiar with the situation said.
The denizens built bedrooms and paid to dock the boat at 190 Morgan Ave., sources said.
Consider it: there have been worse ways to deal with New York's criminally exorbitant rent, haven't there?
Surely these crafty Brooklynites have some stories to relate, but probably not as many as the 35-year-old ferry, "The Schamonchi," that they've been calling home. For years it was used to transfer as many as 650 passengers on roundtrips between Martha’s Vineyard and New Bedford, Mass. Then, a decade or so ago, a man purchased it and refashioned it into a "living space."
But a glance at the boat's history reveals these residents aren't the first to call it home—in 2008, The New York Times reported on "a small group of secretive and resourceful people" braving frigid temperatures and noisy diesel generators to live rent free. The ship was then owned and cohabited by "Jonathan," a 29-year-old real estate investor who slept in the captain's quarters and withheld his last name given the operation's "legally murky" status. Among his shipmates was Ben DeVoe, a painter so enamored with life at sea that he called it "almost rural" (hmm) and doubted he could ever go home again:
Ben DeVoe, 25, an artist and landscape gardener, left a shared apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, two months ago, cleaning out the lifejackets to bunk in a storage room.
His bed is meticulously made next to huge wheels of inch-thick industrial cable that were too heavy to shift. “I don’t know if I can go back to living in an apartment because that’s just so ... normal,” he said. “This is almost rural. It’s like we’re camping.”
Then, in 2011, New York's Intelligencer reported on a new crop of hipsters occupying at least four houseboats on the Gowanus Canal, despite the fact that the EPA claimed the sewage-filled water was so polluted, a momentary dip could be toxic. Among the millennial pirates: an affluent New Jersey native named Adam Katzman who lived on a boat called the Jerko, which he outfitted with "solar panels and a 'humanure' composting toilet for an attempt at off-the-grid green living." (Okay, maybe he could afford to go back to paying rent.)
Around the same time, the Boggsville Boatel, an artist-run "floating hotel," began capturing imaginations in Far Rockaway, reminding New Yorkers that theirs really is a maritime town.
This particular crew of ten has been dismissed from the Schamonchi, likely for good, but who knows who'll replace them. Still, not everyone is amused by such nautical exploits. The fittingly titled Die Hipster blog casts heavy shade on the crew's "pseudo urban grittiness," fantasizing about sinking it with a torpedo:
we all know if something were to happen to these emaciated breardos during little their Bushwick boat adventure, Mommy Nasalworth back in Wisconsin would be suing the property owner and the city in a heartbeat for irresponsibly letting her talented little artist get hurt. These kind of stories—where fully grown adults who came to pussify Brooklyn, and have their fun ruined—make me so happy. Get the fuck outta here already.
Ah, well, you can't impress everyone in rapidly gentrifying corners of Brooklyn. Even if you're too busy floating on a ship in a filthily toxic creek to have to decide between the musty, old bodegas and Dunkin Donuts cropping up on every corner.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.