DOCKED AT THE 79TH STREET BOAT BASIN IN THE DEEP FREEZE; ‘WHY THE HELL DO WE LIVE HERE?’

BaconJordan
Regina Jordan, Ed Bacon and Ollie inside their boat.

By Joy Bergmann

Ask Ed Bacon why he’s been a year-round resident of the 79th Street Boat Basin since 1970 and he’ll point toward 33 Riverside’s penthouse where George Gershwin (likely) wrote a tune summing up his favorite aspect of a Hudson River lifestyle: Summertime.

It was hard to be singing “and the living is ea-sy” last Monday evening as 30 mph winds whipped across the water, sending temperatures into the teens and necessitating an ice-dodging step into Prelude, his and wife Regina Jordan’s cutter-rigged ketch.

boat basin5
The Boat Basin at sunset on Wednesday.

It’s a cozy 70 degrees, however, inside the living quarters he calls, “a very efficient studio with three bedrooms and two bathrooms in about 450 square feet…our womb with a view.” All of the couple’s worldly possessions are tucked away with the tidiness of a black-belt Marie Kondo-ite. Ollie, a 10-year-old Maltipoo otherwise known as The Admiral, supervises operations from a newly upholstered settee/dining-bench/guest bed.

The boat is their office as well as home, equipped with Time Warner Cable Internet, TV, VoIP phone and a ConEd electrical account. Through All NYC Yachts they broker local yachts of all sizes for all occasions, as well as charter Prelude for events and engagement cruises, catered by chef Regina who’s also a personal fitness trainer.

Prelude
Prelude, sailing the river in more temperate weather.

Additionally, Ed maintains a non-profit site, I Boat NY Harbor, providing information to transient boaters and other newcomers about everything from tides to safety procedures. The site is also home to Boat Basin BULLetin, a community newsletter that includes dispatches from a secret source known only as “Deep Boat.”

In a freewheeling conversation, Ed, 75, and Regina, “let’s say 58”, spelled out some of the benefits and drawbacks of life on the UWS waterfront. Following is an edited version of our chat.

WSR: NYC’s Parks Department is essentially your landlord. How does that work?

EB: Parks issues our permit once a year. We used to have contracts, but now we have as many rights as a Central Park hot dog vendor.

ReginaJordanInGalleyWSR: Parks could choose not to renew your permit at any time?

EB: Yes. They could nail us for violation of some regulation. Parks marinas have 20+ pages of regs.

WSR: How’s the rent?

RJ: It’s cheap, but you get what you pay for.

EB: For a full-year permit, it’s $225 per foot (of boat); plus another $3000 a year or so for a parking space in the rotunda lot behind Boat Basin Café.

WSR: So a 30-footer [the minimum size] would be $6750 a year, $563 a month. That’s a great “maintenance” fee compared to a co-op.

EB: We get billed for 51 feet, $956 a month. And there’s no comparison to a co-op. For all that think we’re getting such a sweet deal, consider that – beyond having no contract securing our address – we have bigger expenses in time, labor and certain purchases:

RJ: Why the hell do we live here? (laughs) It’s hard work. I call myself a pioneer woman.

WSR: I did see you have Prelude up for sale. You’re not leaving?

OllieEB: No. We’re looking to switch. Modern boats are like Clorox bottles: low maintenance.

WSR: Has the Boat Basin community changed much in your 45 years here?

EB: We used to have about 104 year-rounders; now it’s down to 33 boats. It’s always attracted an eclectic group of people and they are the best thing about the Boat Basin. However, as in most UWS neighborhoods, homogeneity is being force-fed by the City.

WSR: How could Parks serve Basin residents better?

EB: We’d like more communication from the top. Nobody knows where this marina is going. We asked to be involved in the process as various infrastructure projects have been planned. But [it didn’t happen].

RJ: Communication has been a real struggle for at least the past nine years.

WSR: What makes it worth all the hassles? What do you love about living here?

RJ: There’s a lot of freedom in the summertime. We sit outside and have cocktails with company or watch TV; it’s pleasant. And the sunsets in winter! They are the most beautiful I’ve ever seen and we’ve been to the Caribbean, all over.

EB: Again, it’s the people. I like to say, the farther west you go in Manhattan, the weirder it gets. And we’re as far west as you can go.

Interior photos by Joy Bergmann. Boat Basin photo by Meredith Kurz. Prelude photo via Ed and Regina’s website.

NEWS, OUTDOORS | 20 comments | permalink
    1. dannyboy says:

      Another personal fantasy that I have let go.

    2. Lucien Desar says:

      Great interview and story. I especially liked the posed photo by the Admiral. 🙂

    3. Mark says:

      Cool story! And Ollie is completely adorable!!

    4. Spence Halperin says:

      I have a hard time wrapping my brain around the troubles of folks who live on a boat and would prefer that the city spend its time and money on permanent housing for the homeless. If this couple is living on the boat because they cannot afford to live elsewhere, they should be able to benefit from some housing assistance.

      • Nathan says:

        I’m pretty sure they live there by choice, not because they’re poor. The rent is cheap, sure, but as the article makes clear they pay for it in other ways.

      • Steen says:

        It was a charming story. And I didn’t see anything in it about having trouble living elsewhere. If you are concerned about the lack of discussion on city housing for the homeless that’s because the article was not about homeless shelters, but about life on a boat in the heart of the largest city in North America.

      • em may says:

        lol @ thinking these yacht owners are living here because they’re “poor”.

    5. Nelson says:

      That was very interesting & they seem like sweet people. Thanks for that!

      PS: WSR it would be nice if you’d delete the unnecessarily bullying posts such as the one from “Brett Mann.”

    6. Upper West Side Wally says:

      And in this context Tom Cruise’s sexuality would be relevant because….?

    7. Shamir says:

      I run by the boat basin during morning jogs when the weather is warm. I’ve wondered who lives there.

      Interesting article, but I think I would lose my mind if I had to live in one of these boats, especially in the dead of winter.

    8. Lulu says:

      Great story. I always wondered what it would be like. Thanks for this!

    9. Sarah says:

      Love it!

    10. Catherine Holmes says:

      Wonderful slice of life story. They seem like folks we want to know!

    11. some dude says:

      I’m curious what they did during Sandy…or during other major weather events. Great interview though!

      • Riverside Boulevarder says:

        During Sandy, all live aboard residents had to exit the marina. I’m sure they have friends in Manhattan who would take them in. Ed did send emails throughout the storm to his list updating everyone on the condition of the marina.

    12. Natalie says:

      Loved seeing you and your husband on your boat! A little different from class!

      Best,
      Natalie

    13. steven morvay says:

      Great article. Very cool to learn about our neighbors on the sea! Good job Joy!

    14. Delta Willis says:

      “A womb with a view” was coined by Washington lobbyist Maurice Rosenblatt upon visiting my boat at 79th Street. I enjoyed 22 years at the marina, including great cruises on the Prelude. But I learned to spend winters in Africa, in equatorial bliss.

    15. nancy kayye says:

      Loved this interview. It has always been my fantasy to live at marina.

    16. Jim Courage says:

      Great job Ed and Reggie, so nice to see you two and Ollie in this article. Thanks WSR team, Jim C.