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PHOTOS: Constance Hockaday’s Boggsville Boatel Turns Defunct Boats Into Floating NYC Hotels

Posted By Diane Pham On August 16, 2011 @ 10:28 am In Architecture,Art NYC,Queens | 1 Comment

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© Michael DePasquale [11]

“Let’s first get one thing straight: we are not a real hotel. This is an adventure at best, art project at worst.” – Constance Hockaday

The “Boggsville Boatel” installation is located within Marina 59, a working class marina, home to fisherman who have been living on the water for over 20 years. The sense of community is strong, and neighboring boat owners aren’t shy to wave a hand or to shout out from their deck. While much of the landscape remains raw and the atmosphere calm, there are certainly markers to remind you that you are just an hour from Manhattan. A depot of yellow school buses [9] sits visible in the distance, the east of the water is flanked by housing projects, and just about every 10 minutes you can see a plane [12]fresh from JFK sweep low above-head – the airport sits just 3 miles north of the marina. There is something at once serene, modest, and bittersweet about the experience – enjoy it, but just don’t get too comfortable because eventually you’ll have to go back to the bustle of the city.

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© Michael DePasquale [11]

To call the Boatel no frills would be an understatement; visitors are required to bring their own bedding and food, and not one of the boats has electricity, a functioning kitchen or bathroom. The marina does however host a sleek modern bathroom, complete with showers, and grills [13]are provided for guests dockside along with a box-full of bug spray.

The crowd you’ll meet here will probably look much like your neighbors – most guests come from the lower boroughs of Manhattan – but it does represent an unlikely faction of the city pulled together in the name of fun and adventure. Guests to the Boatel work in everything from theater to finance to fitness. Hipsters can check their pretension at the gate because social status is zero to none.

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© Michael DePasquale [11]

Hockaday’s Boggsville Boatel was inspired by Nancy Boggs [14], a 19th-century madam, who was said to have run a floating brothel in the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon. Boggs was eventually found out by authorities, but as legend has it, instead of surrendering, she let her boat float away and then paddled off in a rowboat to find some tugboat captains willing to save her barge — we can only guess the boat full of prostitutes and spirits helped open their hearts.

The new iteration has also has generated its fair share of tell-tales. As we descended the subway [15], we were met by a pair of friends who managed to secure a boat for the night. The duo had no idea what to expect, but they relayed to us that the boat they originally rented had sunk days ago and they were a little uncertain about the safety of what was to come. When we asked Hocakaday about the sunken vessel, she laughed and assured us no boats have found their way to the bottom. Fact or fiction, it’s that bit of rogue adventure that would make Nancy Boggs proud.

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But unlike its inspiration, Boggsville Boatel is not a business (amongst other things). The Boatel operates under a charter status, and is considered by the city strictly as an art [10] project. The nightly rental fee that guests pay, which ranges from $50 to $100 depending on the boat, is billed as a donation. Flux Factory has also required that Boatel guests sign a liability waiver, and it is clear about risks like falling in the water. Thus far the project has not made in any money, and despite being constructed wholly from abandoned boats, found materials [16]and with the help of friends and volunteers, Hockaday poured $2,000 of her own money into the project. The short term goal of the artist is to recoup her expenses, but beyond the exhibit, she sees a lot of potential in the idea. She, along with the owner of Marina 59, hope to transform the Boatel into a full-fledged business by next summer. But until the kinks are worked, once the exhibit closes, the boats will be pulled back to land.

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© Michael DePasquale [11]

The exhibit, which kicked off earlier this summer, runs through September and has been met with great reception. Every boat is booked up through the closing date, selling out within the first few weeks of being announced. But even if you’re part of the unlucky many who didn’t secure a barge of your own, you can still head down to the marina and enjoy the scene. Boggsville is open to visitors during its Boat-in movies, where guests can not only take in the various boat-centric movies, but go for a swim, throw a burger on the grill, and enjoy the night sky. Because if even just for one night, leaving what you know behind can be an amazing thing.

+ Constance Hockaday [9]

+ Flux Factory [7]

All Photos: © Michael DePasquale [11] and Diane Pham for Inhabitat


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[5] Brooklyn: http://inhabitat.com/nyc/old-brooklyn-airport-to-be-transformed-into-giant-urban-campground/

[6] water: http://inhabitat.com/nyc

[7] Flux Factory: http://www.fluxfactory.org/

[8] Sea Worthy: http://www.fluxfactory.org/events/sea-worthy-events/

[9] Constance Hockaday: http://constancehockaday.wordpress.com/

[10] art : http://www.inhabitat.com/art

[11] Michael DePasquale: http://www.michaeldepasquale.com/

[12] plane : http://inhabitat.com/pipistrel-introduces-the-worlds-most-powerful-electric-airplane/

[13] grills : http://inhabitat.com/wilson-solar-grill-stores-the-suns-energy-for-nighttime-fuel-free-grilling/

[14] Nancy Boggs: http://www.offbeatoregon.com/H1007d_floating-bordello-in-portland.html

[15] subway: http://inhabitat.com/14-subways-you-definitely-want-to-ride-on/

[16] materials : http://www.inhabitat.com/materials

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