Parking So Prime, the Car Is Optional

In New York City, a parking spot can be a source of income or even a way to build community.

Comments: 80

  1. Funny a parking spot story and the reporter covers illegal parking without addressing it. Those spots in Astoria Heights are illegal, parking of any vehicle on a sidewalk or front of a property is not allowed in NYC. All vehicles, when parked on residential property, are to be stored in a fixed structure, such as a garage (car ports are not allowed). DOB code dictates this. All over NYC, you see owners turn their front gardens and sidewalks into illegal parking spots and the NYTimes making it seem like the owners are doing their neighbors favors by renting to them.

  2. @Just Here One of the reasons we have flooding and pollution is the extra stormwater runoff we get when people pave their yards to make illegal spots like the ones in the article.

  3. @Just Here There are or were " Blue Laws " , old laws that no make no sense for today. Maybe NYC should look at this law. It may not be relevant today and it is the homeowners property . If neighbors don't care or are doing the same maybe the law should be modified. I don't see how 50 square feet of space on a 141st in the Bronx is going to impact flood water.

  4. @Henry Boehringer I mean, we don't live in a vacuum. So it's not just one person, and it's not just 50 square feet. Also, a Blue Law is a law that prohibits doing certain things on Sundays.

  5. Private parking in Manhattan is a perk of the rich and for those who exploit and rent theirs for income should be taxed as income. Better yet, with the coming congestion pricing to drive into Manhattan, all new build condos and commercial building should ban the building car parking period.

  6. @Other For those whose world view does not extend beyond Manhattan and for whom leaving the cloistered neighborhoods on that small isle that contain their apartment and office are beyond the pale, then sure, no cars. But the reality is the world extends beyond Manhattan. For some folks, work requires it and public transit either does not go to their offices or takes forever to get there. For others, a car can provide a family a means to go on trips to explore the world outside of the concrete canyons to widen the world view of their kids. Only in NYC do people rail against the existence of cars and never get driver's licenses. There a lot of stuff out there, most of it not accessible by train or bus.

  7. @Eric Cars are dangerous and bad for the environment. We should be encouraging high-density living and good public transit so that our society doesn't have to rely on them so much. New York is one of the few places in the US that is set up to live without a car, and yet people who want a suburban lifestyle will insist they have to bring part of that lifestyle with them into the city. With obvious exceptions for business and disabled people, Manhattan and many parts of the other boroughs should be disincentivizing cars, rather than subsidizing them with free parking and other perks.

  8. @Other It's taxable income.

  9. On a related note, here in Greenpoint Brooklyn back in the day with abandoned areas down by the river it was easy (although a little bit unsafe) to find a good alternate side parking spot. Now with gentrification, with the area all built up with lux condos and rentals the three hardest jobs in the world are climbing Mount Everett, winning the NYC Marathon and finding an alternate side parking spot here in Greenpoint. When I found the easy rare spot, I look around the area for five minutes making sure it is not flagged for some reason like construction, utility work, etc. etc. I walk the whole block.

  10. @Paul Paul. Of course profit from rented parking spots are taxed as income just as any income is taxable. Whether the owner actually reports that income or cheats on their taxes is another matter.

  11. @Avid NYT reader thank you for your reply. I am talking about regular spots on the street that have nothing to do with rented spots. As mentioned when I find one easily, I look around searching for something wrong with the spot.

  12. A car is not necessarily optional in NYC. If you commute every day to a place where there is no public transportation, then you need a car. There are some people who have jobs fifty miles out in New Jersey, in the middle of nowhere. I once commuted for a week to a class in New Jersey that was really out there. It was quite an easy trip from Manhattan, because everyone was going the other way.

  13. My parents owned the corner house of a 5-home attached brick building in Elmhurst. There was a front, side, and backyard. There were grass and flowers, tomatoes and apple trees. An elderly Chinese neighbor would do her Tai Chi in the yard, uninvited but welcomed. Birds would nest, and passersby enjoyed the little spot of nature in the Big City. After my parents passed, and the new owner promised to maintain the open space, it was immediately bulldozed and covered in concrete to make way for several parking spots, which would have been very lucrative for the new owners. Neighbors were so incensed that they reported this illegal activity to the city. Although the owner is now limited in the number of parking spots he can rent out, a tiny but vital bit of green space is gone forever.

  14. @CEM The key word being "owner". It's his property.

  15. It’s long past time for New York to attack this problem. Maybe subsidized free or low cost parking for families earning less than $70,000 a year is in order.

  16. @Rock Winchester ...or, subsidized free or low cost public transportation. That would be a lot better for the community and the environment.

  17. @Rock and @Scott: Thank you so much for weighing in on our parking issues here in NYC from PEORIA and MAINE. I don't know what we'd do without your input, b/c we've certainly never thought of those ideas ourselves...

  18. @Scott and the ride on public transportation includes a face mask, gloves, and pepper spray?

  19. When I lived in Flushing, many years ago, the parking was horrendous - many otherwise wonderful evenings out were ruined by an hour-long search for a spot. One day, a prospective new tenant in my apartment building stopped and asked me about the parking situation in the neighborhood. I said it was awful. "How bad," he asked. "The worst," I replied. "Do you EVER get a spot," he inquired. My response: "I have been living here for three years and I haven't had to bring the car upstairs, yet!" [P.S. Shortly after, I got a spot on someone's nearby driveway - heaven!]

  20. @Rick F. Easy solution - get rid of the car. Flushing has excellent transit. Or, if you really want a car, pay up for a garage space, and no more time wasted looking for a spot.

  21. @Osito There is a chance that he did a lot of things that involved using a car, which is why having a good parking space was important rather than jumping to conclusions on this.

  22. @Osito Perhaps, he was doing a lot of things that did involve using a car, which is why having a space near his home in Flushing was so important and that you shouldn't always jump to conclusions until you get all the facts first.

  23. We bought a house with a garage a couple of years ago in Hudson County. Most other places we looked at had street parking, and barely anybody else here has a garage. At the time I didn’t think much of it, but now I wouldn’t want a house without it. No moving the car because of street cleaning, no tandem driveway like before where we had to leave the keys in the entrance so our car could be moved by the other tenants (or we had to move their car before leaving). And the best of course: being able to drive into the garage and go straight into the house without getting wet in the rain. The disadvantage: the need of owning a car. I could live without it

  24. An article about one of the sources of the actual costs of car ownership!!! Most fascinating comment was at the end of the article, parenthetically noting that Mr. Nihal "has dedicated parking at his job." That's an example of the many ways that the cost of car ownership is externalized/hidden. Though I doubt the cost of that workplace space is as high as $500 a month (or $250,000 is purchased, that's still a valuable "free" perk that supports car ownership. Makes me wonder what the cost of public transit would be with equivalent levels of subsidy.

  25. As a first time car owner in the city I was shocked to learn the cost of parking in garages in lower Manhattan - $560 monthly.

  26. @JJ For comparison, a parking space in downtown Seattle and parts of adjacent neighborhoods runs about $300/month.

  27. @Joe Wolf: Yes, but then you're in Seattle, where it rains most of the year.

  28. This is a problem elsewhere as well. My ex-husband and I lived in Madison, Wisconsin, where parking was impossible in our neighborhood. The nice guy in the apartment next to ours let us know when there was a spot in the tiny home garage across the street. He had a spot there, we got the remaining spot and happily spent $125. a month to keep it. In 1981 dollars.

  29. I know this is New York, but I can't fathom paying more for a parking space monthly than I have for any of my car payments (including new cars). How crazy. Sorry -- New York might be wonderful, but the costs make me never even want to go near the place.

  30. @cz Agreed. I couldn't possibly afford to live in NY. I'd have to rob banks as a side job and since I am not a criminal, I'll just stick with Florida where my considerably cheaper house comes with a garage.

  31. I would almost pay anything to get a garage near my home in Bay Ridge. I generally don't need a car, as I work from home, but when I need to go to the office, I need a car, as my office is close to 100 miles away. A car is a necessity for some, and I could so without the pontification of some about those of us who do have one.

  32. Alternate-side parking is miserable but I can't imagine paying a regular monthly fee for parking in New York. When I really couldn't find a space, I'd grab the early-bird special at the local taxi spot. Overnight parking was dirt cheap so long as you got your car out before the morning commute. Check the weather and park early if a storm is coming. Otherwise, whatever. Car are pretty antithetical to city life anyway. Unless you absolutely need one for work, what are you doing? We shared one car for long distance trips. We parked it in New Jersey. The parking didn't cost $150 a month. That's for sure. If you needed a car in the city, the price was the toll. The biggest problem was keeping the car insured. Fortunately, we used the car enough it didn't matter. When we were done, we sold it. I bought an even older car. Still running. I still don't care about the dents.

  33. It is amazing how things has changed in NYC with respect to parking. I remember during the 1970s I would take my car to work in lower Manhattan, after work I would drive up to 57 street I would sit in the car until 7:00 pm next to Carnegie Hall where you could park, no meters, until 7:00 am, then have a bite across the street at the Carnegie Deli until the concert started at 8:00 pm, no worry about parking tickets. New York residents in the city has to be young and tough to endure the parking situation stated in this article.

  34. My late Mom used to live in Astoria in the 1950s. She said she would drive her car in to work every day, "just park it around Grand Central" and leave it there all day. So many things were better, then, though. The Bronx hadn't yet become a wasteland of burned-out buildings, crime and urban blight. Then it got ridiculously bad. I remember living on 103rd and West End in the late 80s and every single morning, I would come out of my building and every car on the block would have a window smashed as Crackie wanted the change in the center console. Crackie is gone, driven out by gentrification. But so are all the plumbers, cab drivers, cops and anyone else who doesn't have rent control or makes less than $125,000 a year.

  35. Many plumbers make more than that. It costs $200 for one to walk through the door. Cabdrivers, I'll give you.

  36. Having parking in the property you live in is a blessing for those that have it rather than a curse compared to what certain groups may think. However, some are pushing for such newer apartment complexes to have less parking minimums when there should really be more. In reality, having more parking minimums will mean less motorists having to circle blocks to find a parking space because they will know that they will always a space for them in their own property for them. In all honesty, having to park somewhere for the night in having to just move it somewhere else the next morning due to what sign there mentions to what is affect can be both a hassle and annoying at the same time not to mention a waste of gas that will add up doing this. To me, any property in NYC that includes parking with it will always be seen as an oasis in the desert. Unfortunately, there are those anti-car fanatics who don't seem to understand how the other half of the city tends to live especially those who can't somewhere easily by public transportation the way they can hence the need of a Jacob Riis from the day and age. More importantly, try to understand that the boundaries of NYC don't end where the subway lines stop and transit deserts do exist even within city lines, which is why there those such myself who will always see something as congestion pricing as not just a regressive tax on lower incomes, but also a punishment for having such little choices to getting around.

  37. NYC life: The two things which can consume my schedule: when to wash my hair & when to move my car. And of course if my car is parked on the right side of the street until Friday, I don't use it until then.

  38. In the sixties and seventies, many of us didn't have cars and rented out garages that were attached to our homes.

  39. One of the good things about living in Manhattan is that you don't need a car, so why do so many people have one? "We just use it to go away on the weekend." Well, renting one or using Zipcar is cheaper than car payments, maintenance, gas, insurance and garage parking. There are people who must drive into Manhattan and park there for one reason or another, and all of those residents' unnecessary cars take up the parking and force the "B&T" people to drive around endlessly looking for a space. For instance, NYC Parent, below, who says "if my car is parked on the right side of the street until Friday, I don't use it until then." Thanks a lot for making life here so much more pleasant for the rest of us.

  40. @Perfect Gentleman I subscribe to your view. However, waiting hours for a "scheduled" rental pick-up as well as those times when you forget to book early (and find all cars rented to your better-organized neighbors) are almost enough to convert me. Lucky for you, my diminutive bankroll does not allow it.

  41. @Perfect Gentleman There are those who are going to places from Manhattan that they can't get to easily by public transportation. These are known as reverse commuters. Unfortunately, for them, many of the places they need to reach is only more easier to get to by driving. In other words, having a good parking spot would be good for them especially when they come back home for the day knowing that they they will always have that space there for them after a long day's work and not having to spend extra time looking for a space on the street let alone having to wake up pretty early to move it due to whatever the sign on the area they parked in will imply for certain days. Also, these people have been against congestion pricing because they know that they will have to pay for it whenever they return for the day and feeling that it will hurt them, which is why they tend to oppose it unless they will get some kind of carve out or exemption. I highly doubt that they want to spend to spend so much on a rental car or even using a ride sharing app such as Uber or Lyft to get such distances knowing how much that will cost them each day they use them unless they really have the money for that.

  42. From far distant Minnesota, and small town at that, this looks like rich people's problems. Still, I have parking issues, too. My house has a single car garage (silly to have bought that!) while I have three cars, and overnight parking is not allowed on the street. This results in a lot of juggling; not to mention dealing with frost and snow in the winter. Visitors can always find parking, usually the entire block.

  43. @Zetelmo We have driven to NYC two or three times when my wife needed to visit a foreign consulate near the UN. We got a hotel room in New Jersey, next to a bus stop, and commuted in.

  44. Change the distance to water hydrants to 3 feet and we create easily 20,000 to 40,000 spaces overnight in the five boroughs Currently 15 feet is the requirement from a hydrant and so much space is wasted for a potential fire Well if a car is damaged due to parking 3 feet from hydrant insurance will pay for it. A water line to a hydrant does not need 15 feet . Simply hook up a water line and if it touches a car it won’t ruin the engine it will scrape the car . Change parking rules. How many hydrants were used last year for legitimate fires not practice runs? Very few.

  45. @Ralph Petrillo I wouldn't argue against this. However, I'm not sure that when firetrucks do use those fire hydrants, I can't tell if they really parallel park next to them are just double park in a travel lane parallel to them. If the later is more true, then there is no reason to have so much space from those fire hydrants when they can just place the fire hose easily between the parked vehicles at shorter distances without even touching them at all. Should they damage any vehicles, I feel that the fire department should be for the damages since it was them who damaged them in the first place unless they had to get someone had of them with the jaws of life, which a different story there. What I don't understand is that most don't even know right now if they are 15 feet from either side of the fire hydrant mainly because many of curbs they are on aren't marked, which makes it very hard to determine especially for those who don't know how to measure.

  46. @Tal Barzilai No fault car insurance in NY. Car insurance companies will pay. The city rules are currently set up so the parking garage owners who are friends of the politicians can make huge profits., My idea frees up thousands of spots .

  47. @Ralph Petrillo I was only asking if the firetrucks really do park next to the fire hydrants or not, because if they don't for the most part, then I will agree with your three feet idea.

  48. When we decided in retirement to become "bi-coastal" we began looking for a two-bedroom condo in Los Angeles. In making this change we knew that the LA part of our lives would require a car (actually two). As we looked at condos the realtor was very concerned how we would react to the prices for a two bedroom unit. Fearing "sticker shock" he was surprised at our nonchalance to the million dollar price tags. After a while we explained to him that not only were the units considerably larger than what we had in Manhattan but they all included two parking spaces in an underground garage. Something that would cost at least a $1000/month in New York. I think then he understood that to us at least, housing in LA was a bargain!

  49. Although finding a parking space can be very hard for many, there is one group that never seems to have a problem with this and that is the placard abusers. They tend to have this belief that the placards they have allow them to park wherever they please whenever they need it whereas the rest of who would park in such spaces would be ticketed or towed if we even thought of parking in such spaces they use. In reality, their placards are only supposed to use where they really mentioned, not as a get of a parking tickets or tow free card. Such abuse really needs to stop, but so little is being done about it especially since many of them who have the placards tend to have or at least believe that they have some sort of immunity to such laws. I can still remember seeing them park in areas where parking is never allowed for anyone or even in no permit zones where even with them they shouldn't be there yet hardly anything is done. Meanwhile, some of the placards were possibly photocopied and given to friends and families who aren't supposed to have them to begin with. Overall, I'm not saying that we should abolish placards altogether, but there should be a crackdown on those who are abusing them in parking where they aren't supposed to. Why should they get special treatment when the rest of us who drive don't? Unfortunately, very little if anything is being done to stop such abuse.

  50. I live in Ct and a neighbor who owns a 2 family (which he has made into a 4 family) about 2 years ago he removed the sidewalk and turned his front yard into a 3 spot parking lot. It took the city 16 months to get him to remove it and repair the sidewalk.

  51. @Maria, We had a neighbor who tried to do that and was stopped by our tough permit laws.

  52. @Maria Well, at least he lost. Score one for that CT city hall!

  53. And yet I still have the gall to complain about the 50 cent an hour parking meters in my fair hamlet!

  54. I am so sorry to hear that for some, opening the garage door involves manual labor. Must be tough.

  55. How sad this is what New York has come to.

  56. @Joseph, Twenty year-ago parking on Manhattan cost $50 a day. What is it now?

  57. “New Yorkers are relying more on mass transit and ride shares to get around rather than use their own cars,” Something tells me the typical car owning New Yorker is now relying much more on ride sharing than they are on mass transit.

  58. @Benjamin Patience Ride sharing is not recommended in these times.

  59. The Park Slope realtor Trish Martin is lucky enough to rent a garage right near her house yet she uses it only 30-40% of the time? The rest of the time she parks on the street, taking up a space/taking it away from the rest of us? While her garage space sits empty? Greedy, entitled realtor. Ick.

  60. Greedy? She is paying for the convenience. Perhaps you can call her up and ask to sublet.

  61. Those of us living in flyover country read these pieces in wonder. At the same time, we find them incredibly entertaining and hope the Times will continue to print them. We always wish to know how people in the most important city in the country (and on Earth!) are living.

  62. Another “advantage” of cramming ever more people into a finite space. Nature goes first, then civility, then our minds.

  63. @AT Seriously. What bottom feeders to rent parking spaces.

  64. I park at that garage all the time! Nothing else insightful to say, just excited that I recognized it immediately.

  65. An ingenious boost of one's fortune or net worth. Next may come privately owned seats, chairs or little benches bolted to the sidewalk or dog runs.

  66. Corey Johnson has declared he will kill car culture in New York. His perspective would have been additive to this piece. He’d probably make a connection between car accommodations and the rising number of pedestrian deaths, and he’d be right.

  67. @Andy Deckman I hate to break this to you, but calling to kill the car culture can end up having a backlash in the long run. As much as there are those such as you and Corey Johnson that despise the car culture, it's not going away anytime soon. Rather than vilify anyone who drives, I suggest trying to work with them and coexist with them instead. Personally, I have nothing against those who don't need to get around with motor vehicle, but I do have something against the anti-car fanatics who feel as if the only idea are the ones that they make without understanding that not everyone can get around the way can. For the record, I don't condone reckless driving, but I feel that some of the claims about them aren't always true. It's easy to blame a motorists when focusing on the effects, but when looking at the causes, you might find out that they weren't solely responsible for their actions. There have been times when pedestrians tend to jaywalk and even ignore everything around in being distracted themselves while not looking at what is surrounding them. Meanwhile, cyclists have a history of ignoring traffic lights and signs that are really placing them into harm's way. Unfortunately, I have never heard groups such as Transportation Alternatives call them out as they do on motorists all the time, which shows how much they have an anti-car bias. In reality, if you really want safe streets, then all groups should follow the rules, not just one in particular.

  68. Hopefully, these landlords are reporting this as rental income.

  69. I love my parking spot it goes right into my building and I know where all the spots are that become free all over the city.. makes going out to events so much more pleasant

  70. There are many homeowners in my outer borough neighborhood who are tearing down old single family houses and rebuilding them huge. There is even a name for these palaces: McMansions. Along with this, another thing I've noticed is the rapid paving over of many, many green spaces on people's lots, perhaps to be used for parking. A call to the buildings department informed me that there are strict rules regarding pavement around homes. Some of these regulations are available at: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/zoning/districts-tools/streetscape-improvements.page Twenty to fifty percent of front yards must be planted, based on frontage of the lot. Briefly, frontage less than 20 feet, 20 -34 feet, 35-59 feet, and 60 or more feet requires 20%, 25%, 30%, and 50% respectively being planted. There are also regulations governing the total percentage of any home lot that can be paved. In addition, there are rules regulating the number of trees which must be planted between the sidewalk and the curb. “Planting regulations also apply to medium- and high-density R6 through R10 districts… When buildings are set back from the street in these zoning districts, the entire area in the front of the building must be planted, except for the entrances/exits to the building or driveways.”

  71. So all of these parties leasing out a parking space are of course reporting that extra income on their taxes?

  72. "Ride-sharing services have actually reduced demand for parking spaces, according to Jonathan Miller, the president of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers & Consultants. “New Yorkers are relying more on mass transit and ride shares to get around rather than use their own cars,” he said." That's pre-COVID-19!

  73. Mr. Yaich had to mention that his car is a “convertible BMW.” Too funny.

  74. There are seven people quoted in this story. Two of those are identified as immigrants. Why is that relevant for readers?

  75. Cars in garages?? Garages are for skis, mountain bikes, kayaks, climbing gear, backpacks…

  76. A whole article on parking with zero discussion of what an awful waste of space it is and how bad it is for pedestrians and public transit? So time-deaf.

  77. @Aaron Please try looking at a subway map of NYC, because not every part of it have a subway line going through it, which means that transit deserts exist even within city lines, plus not everyone can get around without a car like you can, so try looking at it through their perspective for once rather than just your own.

  78. It’s my old colleague, Jee!

  79. My comment falls about half-way between W.C. Fields and P.T. Barnum.

  80. Thirty years ago, a friend who worked for a law firm asked if I wanted to buy a parking space in a garage adjacent to Beacon Hill in Boston that had just been converted from a VW dealership back to a parking facility. One space was $10,000. Of course, while I hemmed and hawed, all the spaces were sold. I now live far from Boston, and wonder if it's still a garage.