2011-08-19 / Community

Boatel: A Little Bit Of Heaven In Rockaway

By Miriam Rosenberg

Boatel owner Constance Hockaday in the entrance to her floating hotel. Boatel owner Constance Hockaday in the entrance to her floating hotel. It opened in July and is sold out for the entire summer season. It’s the Boatel, an idea that came out of an art exhibition and grew into an overnight getaway on the Rockaway peninsula.

The Boatel’s owner told The Wave the enterprise came about as a result of her participation in an art exhibit.

“I built the boatel here because it was part of a show [in which I was invited to take part] with an organization called the Flux Factory,” said artist Constance Hockaday, about the seafaring hotel located at Marina 59 in Arverne, at Beach 59 Street, behind the Mobil gas station. She added, “Once I came to the marina and saw there were all these boats here, I realized it was the perfect place [to put the boatel].”

The exhibition that brought Hockaday to Rockaway is called “Sea Worthy,” which, according to Flux Factory’s website, is “an exhibition and series of public screenings, performances, lectures, workshops and artist-led excursions on the water. Hockaday’s project is described by Flux Factory as “a series of floating hotels and a theater … complete with a movie or lecture each night this summer.” After three weeks of renovations of the boats, the Boatel opened on July 7. “We sold out completely, almost immediately, and that was completely unexpected,” said Hockaday, who added that she has been receiving “hundreds and hundreds of emails in my inbox. … I had no idea people would be so excited about it.”

“Fantastic” and “perfect” is what Kate Pennell, left, and Anna Beth Weber called the Boatel. “Fantastic” and “perfect” is what Kate Pennell, left, and Anna Beth Weber called the Boatel. In addition to being a place to stay, Hockaday uses the stage area to give lectures and show movies that are water themed. Hockaday has also reached out to those living in the area, from those who run the marina to the young people living in the neighborhood. “I’ve made a lot of friends here,” said Hockaday, who continued that young people have been using the Boatel to swim and for swimming lessons. She told The Wave that safety rules with the young people, who wear life vests.

The artist, who calls her art “socially engaged,” is already thinking how she can expand the Boatel, should she open it again next summer.

“I’d like to use this space as more of a community space, not just a Boatel,” said Hockaday. “[Use it as] a place where people can come. Maybe we can do summer parties with the kids, do fishing with the kids, integrate with the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance [or some other organization].”

Currently the audiences for the overnight stays are artists from the city, but she says she wasn’t targeting any particular audience. Among those visiting the Boatel were Kate Pennell and Anna Beth Weber, who were visitors of Boatel guests while The Wave was there.

“It’s fantastic,” said Pennell. “It’s such a great idea. This is your summer vacation. This is your beach vacation here in Queens.”

Weber added, “It’s perfect. It’s why New York is amazing, isn’t it?” The exhibit that was impetus to the Boatel ends on August 27. The Boatel will close after Labor Day on September 4.

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