Gowanus Canal Houseboat: Floating Brooklyn Home Generates Its Own Energy and Water

by , 07/31/11

Gowanus Canal, Houseboat, Adam Katzman, Solar Panels, Living off the grid, Rainwater harvesting, Self Sufficient living, The Jerko

Believe it or not, it is entirely possible to live off the grid in a city like New York. The extremely polluted Gowanus Canal is dotted with a handful of houseboats, but only the vessel painted like a circus clown is completely self-sufficient. Called “The Jerko,” the eco-houseboat is home to 29-year-old Adam Katzman who has turned his floating home into an energy efficient machine, which requires no utility hook ups from the City of New York. Take a tour of Katzman’s houseboat in a video after the jump.

Katzman bought the boat for only $1 from a family who lived on it, docked at the 79th Street Boat Basin, and then updated it with salvaged materials. He produces a modest amount of electricity with solar paneling that lines his roof, which total about a 350-watt array. The panels produce enough for his modest day to day living, but can prove difficult in storms — especially this past winter’s constant snow storms. Running water is provided by a rain collecting system, which flows into a water filter system, and provides enough water for one or two people per day.

Katzman cooks his meals in his tiny kitchen with a parabolic solar cooker, grows vegetables and herbs in an interior living garden system, and composts everything. He even composts his own waste, having built a “humanure” toilet. He even installed a floating garden complete with natural filter bamboo, which trails behind and helps oxygenate the filthy water. The houseboat itself has an interior of 350 square feet of living space, comparable to New York studios.

Although completely self-sufficient and not using any of the city’s resources, officials may be cracking down and outlawing Gowanus houseboat living. The EPA, citing that the canal is toxic (it is a Superfund site, after all), thinks the canal is unsafe to live on. Residents buy docking permits, but city agencies say that they don’t pay rent to property owners, and further should have to pass city Buildings and Fire department inspections. Not to mention, local landlubbing residents have complained of loud  “canal parties,” held not by Katzman, but his houseboat neighbors.

Legal logistics or not, Katzman’s “The Jerko” is an inspiration for energy efficient living in the big polluted city.

Via Huffington Post

Images and Video © Yardena Schwartz and Gianna Palmer via Back to Nature NYC