Finding A Place For Cars In New York City

Finding a parking spot in New York City can be a nightmare for some. (Photo: Hayley FitzPatrick)

Many New Yorkers view owning and operating a vehicle in Manhattan as a burden. Lack of available parking and heavy traffic are two factors that largely shape this perspective.

Oftentimes, the individuals with the most unique grasp on these issues work behind the scenes — within garages parking vehicles, behind the wheel sitting in traffic in Times Square, even with a ticket machine in hand enforcing side street parking laws.

One man in particular, Eli Tong, has built much of his career around parking in Manhattan.

Tong is the parking garage manager at Rapid Park, where he has worked for 24 years. The space is unique in that it’s located at 15 West 72nd street, next to the famed Dakota co-op apartment building — where John Lennon was shot in 1980.

Rapid Park is located next to the famous Dakota building on the Upper West Side. (Photo: Google Maps)

When we met one morning, the manager spoke about his daily responsibilities, the garage’s most popular hours, the famous faces who have visited, and the rates at the Rapid Park.

Tong said that the 24 hour/7 days a week garage is busiest between 8 AM to 10 AM. During my time visiting the garage — which was considered a relatively slow hour for the business — the garage saw a constant stream of visitors looking for a place to park.

With its prime location, it comes as no surprise that famous stars like Lauren Bacall, Joe Namath, and Robert De Niro have all parked at the garage.

The rate at Rapid Park was featured prominently on the wall of the garage upon entrance.

A half an hour costs $16.90, up to 1 hour costs $25.35, up to 2 hours costs $35.48, up to 3 hours costs $41.40, up to 8 hours costs $43.93, and the max time allowed costs $50.69.

Hourly prices of parking garages vary dramatically around the city. In comparison, a garage in Times Square, Astor Parking on 1511–15 Broadway, holds more affordable rates — 1/2 hour for $10.14, up to 1 hour for $29.57, up to 2 hours for $33.79, and up to 10 hours for $48.15

The monthly rate for the Times Square garage is also significantly cheaper than the Upper West Side garage. Astor Parking offers a $506.86 monthly rate, while Rapid Park offers a $810 monthly rate.

Although many rely on garages in New York City, there are also a large number of tri-state residents who are not willing to pay the exorbitant price tag attached to these spaces.

Chatenarine Tagecharnd, a 22-year-old student at the City College of New York on course to graduate this December, believes rates at garages are far too expensive.

“There’s just parts of Manhattan where you just can not park,” Tagecharnd said. “Or you have to go in one of these ridiculously expensive parking lots, which are like 20 bucks an hour.”

The student works for a freelance handyman company called TaskRabbit and gets paid to help New Yorkers complete different tasks. Anything from moving to unpacking help is available through the site. To get an idea of how much his summer job is affected by traffic and vehicles, I traveled with him to meet a client and learn more about his job.

Tagecharnd shared that many people reach out to him to help with moving in the city because they do not have their own cars.

“Most people who live in the city reach out to me, like in the borough of Manhattan. I guess because of the city, and it’s hard to move around there,” he said.

He says that parking regularly impacts the lengths of the tasks he conducts.

“I’ve wasted so much time on tasks before just because I can’t find parking, especially when I’m helping people move stuff,” he said.

Tagecharnd’s frustrations aren’t entirely unfounded. Movers are often forced to double park or simply wait in their vehicle because there is no available space to unload.

Workers unpack a truck that is double parked on the Upper West Side. (Photo: Hayley FitzPatrick)

Another factor that affects the duration of Tagecharnd’s tasks? Traffic.

“I deal with it every morning,” he said. “I mean from 6 AM to almost lunch time you get traffic, then probably from like 12 to 2 is the only time you see light traffic. Then rush hour starts again by 3. That’s till the whole night again.”

In order to work around the issue he plans ahead. “Before I start a task I look at my GPS and see how long does it take with the traffic. I usually try to make my schedule in the way that it works out with the traffic also,” he said.

Traffic is a factor that not only affects the student’s summer moving job, but it also affects commuters, businesses, car services, ambulances and the like. It’s one of the most heavily discussed and debated topics amongst New York City residents.

Many utilize social media platforms to showcase the great extent of traffic within the city and surrounding areas.

While Tagecharnd does take issue with the city’s lack of parking and endless supply of traffic, he appreciates his summer job and believes it’s a pretty good deal.

“It is a pretty good side job,” he said. “I’m not doing anything all this summer, so I try to get at least 3 jobs a day. I make on average almost $350 a week, which is not bad for a summer job.”

He also believes the service is more affordable for those without a car who are in need of moving help.

“Moving companies will charge you like a hundred dollars an hour to just help you move,” he said. “I get paid like around $25–26 dollars an hour to help people move. Moving companies are way too expensive.”