Thursday, July 12, 2007

Envious Parker

Well, it’s official: a parking spot in Manhattan now costs as much as an apartment. The New York Times ran a front-page story today about five parking spaces in the basement of a condo in Chelsea that are going for $225,000 apiece, plus maintenance (For Parking Spot, the Price is Right at $56,250 a Tire). A photo shows three beautiful children (they are models) beaming from the back seat of their equally photogenic mother’s car: poster children for the high cost of parking.

There are a lot of ways to react to this story. One could begin by pointing out that the parking space costs about ten times more than the car (or, if you’re talking about my car, a hundred times more). Or one could dwell obsessively on the economics of the poster children’s careers. (Would there be anything left over from their modelling fees once Mom deducted the cost of parking? Can you get a mortgage on a parking spot? How about air rights? What about residuals?) One could certainly admire the couple farther down in the article who had the foresight to buy three condo parking spots in Long Island City for $50,000 apiece, which seems like a bargain, and could be a gold mine if Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion-pricing plan goes through (which seems unlikely, but I find myself rooting for him). Or one could lament the fact that the Alternate Side Parker is simply not a player in these high-stakes parking games. But I seem to have read somewhere that envy is a great evil ("Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s parking spot"), so I might just as well feel lucky to be out of the running for the city's most expensive parking spot.

The really striking thing, though, is not so much the high cost of condo parking as it is the fact that even if you can afford it, you can’t buy it. There simply aren’t enough spots to go around.

My flirtation with paying for parking went as far as stopping last spring at a charming little garage near me and asking how much it would cost to park. The answer was "Forget about it—$400 a month—but there isn’t a spot available." I consoled myself for this rejection with the thought that I was saving $400 a month, which, in the inimitable logic of personal finance, meant that I had $400 a month extra to spend. So now I’m saving $225,000, plus the mortgage interest, plus $600 a year in maintenance . . . I think I could just about retire on that.

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