Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Life on the NYC Streets

To borrow the catchphrase of politician Jimmy McMillan, New York City’s rents are too damn high. As of last November, the median rent for Manhattan was $3100. Want to slum it in Brooklyn? That number drops to a measly $2800. Living in the city for many who don’t work in finance (and some that do) means getting creative with housing. For New Yorker Steven Cintron and his pit bull Bruno, creativity came in the form of a 1996 Gulf Stream Ultra RV he picked up off Craigslist for $5000. He parks it on the streets of the Park Slope neighborhood he grew up in.

The LA Times reported on Cintron and fellow New York RVer Rick Hall last November. The two opted to go mobile rather than pay the city’s outrageous rents.

According to the article, this lifestyle is hardly Kerouacian good times. They report:

Getting electricity takes some effort. Heating during the winter can get costly. Mail may need to be delivered to relatives’ places or post office boxes. There’s also the issue of how to hook up sewage lines.

There are also social costs. Hall reports that “the ladies aren’t really kicking down the door” (though we imagine the flimsy RV doors would be easy to kick down if prospective partners wanted to).

We have mixed feelings about Cintron and Hall’s situation. On the one hand, it’s a bummer that an increasing large number of New Yorkers (not to mention residents of other major cities like San Fran and Boston) simply can’t afford to live in the city they choose. On the other hand, necessity is the mother of invention. We’ve looked at other ways of converting parking spaces to housing in the past. We also saw the Boneyard Studios, that brought trailer mounted tiny houses–structures that are often plopped in the middle of the woods–to the city of Washington DC. From this New Yorker’s perspective, assuming the city could provide/permit some sort of utility infrastructure for mobile homes, I would rather have our limited parking spaces used for housing people than cars.

What do you think? Is this a sad commentary or innovative, high-density housing?

Inhabitat via LA Times

  • YoungSally

    I think what Clinton is doing is considered illegal in NYC – although I understand the financial aspect. There is a Rabbi on the Upper West Side who does the same thing and he has been running into considerable trouble with the authorities and people in the neighborhood.

    • David Friedlander

      thanks for the tip

      in this case, seems like a lot of old-time upper westers–likely with low rents or mortgages–want the, admittedly, ugly rv off the streets.

      • YoungSally

        I didn’t know that there were two on the UWS. The Dodge has been on B’way along the side of my building for most of the past week…just assumed that was the one in the Times article. I see it all the time on CPW.

  • Gingiebot

    People who own homes are always concerned about ‘property values’ and thus do not want alternative dwellings in their neighborhood. I disagree. People have to live somewhere. After 32 years in San Francisco, I had to leave as I couldn’t afford to live there. It’s home, and I can’t afford to live there. I just bought a park model home in Tucson because it is what I can afford. I think urban areas need to get more open to alternative housing…if you can only house rich people where do your service people and laborer s live? Palo alto California was having this problem. They were having trouble finding people to work in restaurants because the rents were so high people had to drive for hours to get to work. Then they started converting old hotels to lowrent apartments.

  • Chris

    I actually considered doing something similar to save a ton of money when I got my current job. I was thinking of getting an RV, parking it in the company car park Mon – Fri and going off and exploring places at the weekend.

    We have on site showers, I’d be able to use the rest rooms, etc. So, some of the issues around electricity, water, etc would be handled.

    I live in San Francisco and I do see people parking RVs of various sizes in my neighborhood as well as people setting up tents, etc on the sidewalks. RV parking is semi-legal, people have to move their RVs, or cars, every 3-4 days and they can only be parked on non metered streets.

    There are no easy solutions to affordable housing in places where lots of people want to live and housing is restricted and expensive like New York, San Francisco, London, Paris, etc.

    Maybe it’s better public transport so people can quickly and easily get to and from work.
    Maybe it’s restrictions / quotas on people who can live in a location that they don’t work in.
    Maybe it’s bringing back boarding houses when people have a bedroom, shared bathrooms and kitchens.

  • noenoe barney-campbell

    ALoha – Same in Hawai’i–high rental rates and high electric rates due to the electric monopoly here. In order to survive and live in a house I have 2 housemates but did have an old 85 VW van as a backup plan in case I couldn’t afford to stay in the house I have rented for the past 15 years; unfortunately, the van was demolished by a city and county backhoe and the city refuses to reimburse me for their mistake. It will be hard for me to live out of a vw beetle but that’s all I could afford. I am a senior citizen and my 2 housemates are considerably younger than I but they keep me young so it works for now but I agree–rental rates are way too high and owning anything in Hawai’i is out of the question for the average person.

  • Tim Domenico

    I’ve lived on three boats and in three different motor homes, so I consider myself an expert on the matter.

    The best ever was my over the road bus (it still had the city names on a roller above the windshield) but parking was no problem because I was working at small airports which have lots of room and no neighbor problems.

    This New York alternative sounds good except where to park is always a problem in the city, there are usually ordinances on the books to prevent parking them overnight. Walmart used to welcome RVers for overnight parking, but even that is becoming a thing of the past.

    I converted a standard Ford cargo van into a micromotorhome specifically so I could park it just about anywhere, This van has solar cells on the roof (a $1200 system), a microwave oven, a 12 volt cooler, actually everything but running water. I even built a black marble covered desk for my laptop.

    Plus it blends in with so many service vehicles finding a place to park was as easy as finding a business with vans parked outside over night. My best find was an office building with three vans and free wifi. I also found a library to park next to, again with free wifi.

    This was in Denver and for heating I used ventless propane heaters (and a CO detector) and was good down to about five below zero. I never used more than $40 a month worth of propane even in the coldest winter months.

    By living in it for two years I saved enough money to pay cash for a small house in a city known for inexpensive living (Pueblo CO).

    But even I had a few run-ins with the local police for overnight parking so I wish only the best for someone trying this alternative living style.