From the inside, Bill Lewis's weekend place seems ordinary. But his two-story home is actually a boat on the Hudson River.
People usually think he's joking when he tells them where he lives.
"'What, you live on a boat?'" is the response Lewis typically gets.
(Bill Lewis's dining room in his houseboat at the 79th Street Boat Basin. Michael Scotto/NY1).
Lewis docks his floating home at the 79th Street Boat Basin, the only city parks department marina that allows houseboats. By city standards, it's palatial: 83-feet long, with five bedrooms and plenty of space to hang out.
Lewis moved into his first houseboat at the boat basin 44 years ago, when he was feeling down and wanted a not-so-ordinary-place to live.
"I also thought this is going to be greatest place in the world as a pickup line," Lewis told us.
He lived full-time on the boat until he got married, had two kids, and discovered other parents didn't want their children hanging out on a boat. In 1993, the family moved to the suburbs. But in 2001, they began returning for weekends and summers.
(A few guests lounge at Bill Lewis's houseboat. It's his weekend spot - at least for now. Michael Scotto/NY1).
Over the years, cats and dogs have sometimes fallen in the water, along with some people, including his mother-in-law.
"She starts walking across the plank and, of course, it breaks and she falls in the water," Lewis recalled. "And she never liked me again."
Created by former Parks Commissioner Robert Moses in 1937, the boat basin has been a place for full-time residents for more than a half-century.
The numbers reached a peak in the 1980s, when full-timers occupied nearly all of the marina's 116 slips.
(Some of the boats docked at the 79th Street Boat Basin, the only city parks department marina that allows houseboats. Michael Scotto/NY1).
"The real great feeling was a sense of community in New York," Lewis remembered. "An apartment building, I'm not sure you really have that same feeling."
Over the years, the basin's full-time residents have occasionally feuded with the city as the parks department has moved to limit the number of people living in the Hudson in order to create a mix of year-round boaters and people who only dock at the boat basin for the summer.
According to the city, 52 slips are available for year-round docking. Currently, 36 of them have permits for full-time residents, but many of those residents, the city says, don't live on their boats during the winter.
Winters can be tough, especially when the temperature falls below freezing. The Hudson can turn to ice and the hoses that provide fresh drinking water to the boats can freeze. The city says it advises people to dry-dock their boats during the winter and live elsewhere.
Docking fees are based on boat size and the time of year. Lewis told us he pays about $1,500 per month, plus utilities. Now that his kids are grown, he and his wife are thinking of moving back full-time.
"I don't think there's a better place to live than the marina," Lewis said.