Let other people moan about sky-high rents and real estate in New York City. Jimmy Hines, 50, has found a solution: living rent-free in a motorhome, the New York Times reports.
“It’s my apartment on wheels,” Hines said, leaning back in his faded 27-foot Gulfstream Sun Sport Class A that was sitting on a fairly busy Queens street, wedged next to the curb in a line of parked cars.
Hines gave notice in the fall on the Queens apartment he was renting and bought a camper with his savings. He is in his sixth month living curbside in the camper, and he swears he will never have a landlord again.
Hines is no skylarking eccentric looking to prove a point about human self-sufficiency. Rather he is a man pushed to an extreme situation by extreme circumstances: New York’s housing market.
Recently he parked the rig on a busy stretch of Main Street south of the Long Island Expressway, on the edge of a commercial strip in an Orthodox section of Kew Gardens Hills, where streets are lined with kosher food shops and boxy brick houses.
Stepping out his front door to the sidewalk, he faces a cemetery. To the right is a bus stop and to the left a gas station. In accordance with city parking regulations, he moves the vehicle at 7 a.m. on Mondays for one half-hour, for street cleaning.
Hines said he was paying $900 a month for an apartment. He had recently lost his job as a vending machine repairman and was receiving a $150 weekly unemployment check.
“I started really thinking about what they’re getting for an apartment in the city these days and I figured: ‘Why should I keep paying rent? It’s crazy,’ ” he said.
So Hines took most of his savings and bought the 1987 Sun Sport for $6,000. He began living in the camper in December. Rather than ramble to less expensive areas, Hines wanted to stay in Queens, where he was born and raised, and still be near his friends.
“It was the wisest thing to do, considering my conditions,” he said, stretching out in the camper on a smallish bed that barely accommodates his 6-foot frame.
The place nearly rivals some Manhattan studio apartments. Hines, who is single, maintains it like a typical bachelor pad. There are dishes in the sink, overflowing ashtrays and a picture of his first hot rod. He keeps his shades down for privacy.
“Don’t mind the place, it’s a bit of a mess,” he said. There are a comfortable couch and some swivel seats next to a small table. In the rear, past the bathroom, refrigerator and closets, is a small room with twin beds.
His kitchen console includes a four-burner stove, oven and refrigerator, all powered by propane. A gas-powered generator provides electricity and heat. Hines also keeps perishables in a plastic cooler, replenished daily with store-bought ice.
His portable toilet deposits the waste in plastic bags, which he puts in street trash cans. For water, he fills up large jugs at a gas station. He has no water hookup, so he takes showers at a friend’s place or at the Queens College gym. His mail is sent to a friend’s house.
Motorhome living is incredibly inexpensive, Hines said. Except for extreme hot or cold weather, he pays $10 a week for propane, for which he must drive the camper to Nassau County for refills. He pays $25 a week in gasoline for the generator.
He spends $7 a day on cigarettes, $4 on coffee and the rest on food.
“I make a mean chicken cordon bleu in that oven,” he said. “I don’t even have an excuse to eat out.”
He has a 9-inch color television with a built-in DVD player for movie rentals. He plans to buy a satellite dish.
He holds regular poker games with his friends and has even taken a date back to the motorhome.