House call: Mobile homes in S.I.

Compared with eensy Manhattan spaces, these compact houses-on-wheels don't lack for square footage.

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The Schaeffers' home

The Schaeffers' home Photograph: Dan Eckstein

"We're not the trailer park from Cops," Mary Schaeffer, resident of the Goethals Garden Homes Community and interior designer, indignantly explains. Her husband, Gavin—a longtime truck driver—elaborates, "People stereotype and think that just because you live in a trailer you're trash, and it's really irritating." The only mobile-home park in the five boroughs—located adjacent to the Goethals Bridge in Staten Island—is a haven for approximately 120 separate transportable housing units. Across from the Schaeffers, Mary Ann Moyse, a waitress, lives with her fianc and their 12-year-old Yorkshire terrier, Poochie, in a reflective, immaculate space. It boasts a full kitchen, small but comfortable guest room, one and a half bathrooms and a gargantuan flat-screen TV that would likely not even fit through the door of the standard closet-size East Village apartment. The unit also has an unfinished front porch, which she hopes to insulate before winter. "Where else can you live decently around here for $485 a month?" Mary Ann asks. That fee includes taxes, water and garbage removal. The Schaeffers, whose home is roughly 900 square feet, redid their floors with European slate, and Mary is in the process of taking down the wood paneling on the walls in addition to refinishing the countertops.

The only concerns that anyone here seems to complain about are constant trucking-traffic snarls on the nearby bridge and low-flying planes dumping their liquid waste before landing in Newark (Mary says she must clean the windows more frequently because of this airborne disposal). Most of the residents have been here for almost three decades—the park demographic skews a bit older—but Mary estimates that three or four new tenants arrive each year. All lot sales are handled through Garden Homes Management Corporation, and prospective residents are subject to a rigorous evaluation before they're allowed to move in. The trailers themselves usually run from $70,000 to $150,000—if a home is on the market for more than six months, Goethals Garden Homes Community typically buys the unit at its appraised value, takes it off the lot and transports a new model in. "When we moved here, we didn't think much of trailer parks either," Mary admits. "But now, it's home."

For more photos, click the thumbnails on the left.

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