neighborhood news

The Hipster Houseboats of the Gowanus Canal [Updated]

Williamsburg lofts have apparently gone the way of the Misshapes; the new waterfront mecca for hipsters are houseboats on the Gowanus Canal. Undeterred by a warning from the EPA that merely falling into the canal can be toxic — perhaps due to raw sewage, PCBs, and gonorrhea found therein — a group of new bohemians have been living on four houseboats there for the past year. City agencies have yet to rule on the legality of the living arrangement, but that hasn’t stopped twenty-somethings, docked behind a truck lot off President and Bond Streets, from calling it home sweet home. Although considering the “late-night canal parties and pretty girls sunbathing on the decks,” perhaps it’s more like Brooklyn’s own budding Lake Havasu.

Residents responses are mixed. Raymond Howell, co-founder of the Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club, thinks safety concerns are overblown: “I’ve fallen in 12 times the past 10 years, and I’m still here!” But others reported “an eyeful” as they biked over the Union and Carroll Street bridge and caught the eye of a female boater in a black bra and orange thong.

Living on a toxic Superfund site may pose more of a health hazard than former factories converted into lofts, but Gowanus squatters do appear to share some similarities with their Williamsburg brethren. Take, for example, Adam Katzman who grew up in a wealthy New Jersey suburb, but now lives on a boat he calls the Jerko. He’s outfitted the boat, purchased for $1 million from a family who lived on it for twenty years at the 79th Street Boat Basin, with solar panels and a “humanure” composting toilet for an attempt at off-the-grid green living — perhaps initially subsidized, we imagine, by mom and dad.

Canal ‘street’ [NYP]
Making Your Home on the Gowanus Canal [Brownstoner]
The Off-Gridder [Back to Nature NYC]

Update: Adam only paid $1 for his boat. Shame on us for assuming that someone who built a humanure composting toilet was anything other than self-sufficient.

The Hipster Houseboats of the Gowanus Canal [Updated]