The barge anchored off the coast of Long Island harbor hasn’t been letting go of the notion that it’s been mistaken for a real mansion, hanging out at taxpayers’ expense the last couple of years. This past year the state clocked more than $26,000 in rental charges for tourists who kept flocking to the outside of the rustic residence to take pictures and sunbathe in its designer waterside perch.
Fitted with a Jacuzzi, tub and shower, the luxurious residence is usually dressed to the nines at taxpayer expense. Designed by Paul Blaser of Manhattan’s famous firm Blaser & Bloom, the “House of Gucci” was mated to a ship in 1977 by Orange County entrepreneur Brian Wojkowsky and his wife, Kathy. But instead of refurbishing the premises, the couple put the boat up for rent six times a year as a high-class summer resort that welcomed a few hundred guests each season. The theme seemed to carry through to the inn’s furniture and decor.
Over the years, the ship came to be known as “the floating house” on social media. The somewhat expensive and chunky furnishings appear to have confused state police who decided to keep an eye on the bridge around the boat’s outbound hour. Since January of last year, the state has spent more than $50,000 on security, firefighting and other expenses, according to the latest State Comptroller’s Office records.
Despite the fiscally conservative governor’s administration, the tour boat has proved to be a costly spectacle for taxpayers.
“It would appear that we do need some far fewer sign-ins for these dangerous waters and great deal of work on them,” emailed Long Island State Police Troop T commanding officer Lieutenant Ed Walsh.
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Earlier this month, the ferry had to be towed from its dock at Franklin Square to another, and further up the road in Islip.
The primary trouble with the barge and other boats like it has been its propensity to get stuck off its moorings because the aging dry dock at Long Island’s Naval Weapons Station Point Lookout doesn’t keep up with modern marine technologies. In recent years, the state had to replace some of the decking and nail down deeper hooks in front of the barge after it got stuck, which has been especially prevalent in rough weather.
There is a plan to widen the pier and pre-drill a new dry dock sometime this year, but time is running out for the expenses. The air chamber capacity will also eventually need to be expanded.
The state claims that it’s managed to save taxpayers more than $450,000 in operating costs by combining a number of pontoon boats and the barge into single vessels that run more efficiently, including the dock charges.
James Lasinski, a spokesman for the state’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, said that the state’s All Star Bus, “which is customized for touring by seagoing tour boats,” and the Parks Police Patrol Boat are among the new aquatic attractions that have benefited from the synergy between the ferries and boats.
“The barge has been a big savings,” Lasinski said.