Covid-fearing New Yorkers cough-up for R5m ‘car condos’

13 August 2021 - 09:40
By Oshrat Carmiel and
Ditching public transport for cars, New Yorkers are paying a premium for personal parking spaces during  the Covid-19 era.
Image: Spencer Platt/Getty Images Ditching public transport for cars, New Yorkers are paying a premium for personal parking spaces during the Covid-19 era.

A Manhattan garage operator is betting New York city dwellers in the Covid-19 era are driving more and would pay a premium for a personal place to put their cars.

Centerpark converted an Upper East Side garage into a condominium, but instead of apartments it is selling 23 parking spaces, and hired a luxury real estate broker to market them for sale to the public for as much as $350,000 (roughly R5,184,130) each.

“So many people have said ‘I’m not going to get on the subway again for a very, very long time’,” said Kirsten Jordan, the Douglas Elliman Real Estate broker who is marketing the units.

“There are others saying, ‘I’m paying $60 (roughly R888) to get from the Upper East Side to Tribeca because Ubers are so expensive. It might make sense to buy a spot’.”

The pandemic has transformed where New Yorkers live, how they work and how they get around. As of mid-July, weekday subway ridership had plummeted 54% from the pre-coronavirus days, according to the Partnership for New York City. The number of city-bound travelers on the suburban commuter rails was down more than half.

New vehicle registrations in Manhattan jumped 27% in 2020 to 55,748, according to the state department of motor vehicles. They’re on course to top that total this year, with 37,735 new registrations recorded up to July 29.

That has increased demand for parking, according to Centerpark CEO Gregg Reuben.

The restaurant sheds that have sprouted up along roadways, combined with new bike lanes, have eliminated as many as 10,000 street spaces, he said. garages that offer monthly rentals are raising prices.

“It’s simply going to become more challenging to own a car in Manhattan,” said Reuben, who estimates that at least three of the firm’s other 17 Manhattan rental garages could go condo.

“People are looking for convenience and security, and there are some who see this strictly as an investment opportunity.”

Most of Manhattan’s for-sale garage spaces are open only to residents of the properties they’re affiliated with, according to Jonathan Miller, president of appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. And they’re rising in value: The average per-square-foot price of spots at condo and co-op buildings has soared 51% in the past year.

At one new condo project, 378 West End Avenue, nine parking spaces open only to owners of the buildings’ priciest apartments are listed for sale at $550,000 (roughly R8,147,287) each, filings show.

At Centerpark’s garage at 301 E. 69th Street, buyers would get 185 square feet of space between painted lines – enough for a car plus additional room to hang items like golf clubs or strollers along the wall. A few contracts, at a pre-sale price of $199,000 (roughly R2,947,836), are pending. Owners must pay property taxes – projected at $3,720 (roughly R55,105) annually – and common charges, just as they would on a residential condo.

“It’s about as close to having your own driveway in Manhattan as you can get,” Reuben said.

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