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  • Writer's pictureAlbert C


You’re planning a big sports night out in New York with friends, catching a game at the Garden or at one of the stadiums. So how do you get there? Public transportation is great for the planet and your wallet, but it can feel ordinary and anonymous when what you want is for it to be YOUR night. This is why, despite all the hassles, people want to drive their own car. So that the event is more than the game, it’s the whole night.

But driving in New York has some big downsides as well. First off, you need a designated driver. And that can mean there’s one person who is odd-man out, while everybody else can let loose.

Then there’s parking. There are ten things that could mean you are looking at an unhappy end to an otherwise great night.

PARKING TICKETS: Finding a legal parking space on the street is never easy, and if there is a big event going on, the chances of finding a legal space are almost zero. So what do you do if you see an open space? Should you grab it? Maybe. Most of the time it will be fine, but there are some rules that could surprise you. For example, the NYC government parking rule #50 says you can’t park in a crosswalk which makes sense, but then notes “Crosswalks are not always identified by painted street markings.” The fine: $115. So if you are one of those people who just refuse to pay for parking, allow tons of time and don’t push the boundaries of legal. A parking tickets in the city costs anywhere from $65-$180.

TOWING: If you think you can park somewhere that you haven’t paid for, or want to push the envelope on street parking, you may have to find alternate transport home. A city tow has fixed rates depending on the size of the vehicle from $185-$370. You will also have to pay the ticket, and you must pay before you can get your car. Every one night in impound costs another $20. Then there’s the private towing from parking in somebody’s space that you don’t have the rights to, and the price on that is whatever they can charge.

FINE PRINT: You might decide to drive and just park in a garage. You see a sign that says $10 and you are interested. But be careful of the fine print. The city says rates must be posted, but doesn’t say how big the print has to be. There are many exceptions and special conditions on signs in parking lots and once you are in, you owe whatever it says. Parking lots in certain areas know this and structure their fees to get the most out of the unwary.

EVENT RATES: Even though rates must be posted, lots can get around that with a simple phrase: event rate in effect. This allows them to hike up the price without having it posted. Almost anything can qualify as an event. If you’re in town with your car for something special, chances are it qualifies as an “event” and you should expect event rates near the venue.

FLAG WAVERS: Many garages employ flag wavers who sometimes look rather official. They will direct traffic to their garage which is usually off the main path (hence the need for flag wavers to get you there) and are often hard to get out of once you are there. These places, though off the main drag, are often more expensive, not less.

TAXES: Wherever you park, the price is not quite the whole story. City taxes on parking garage fees add another 20% to the cost. A $50 fee means a $60 bill in the end.

TIPS: There are fees, taxes, and then tips. Be ready to tip your valet going in and out. The reality of space in New York makes self-service lots less cost-effective. Valets can park cars literally bumper to bumper within inches on either side, packing them in. The tip going in is a request to be extra careful. How extra careful do you want the valet to be? You say that with the size of your tip.

BUMPER DAMAGE: Even if a valet is careful, their job is to pack the cars in. If you don’t want your bumper scratched from the wall or your sides dinged on the side, you should make sure you have bumper protectors and car door guards.

BIG VEHICLE SURCHARGE: If you’ve got an SUV you will likely have to pay more. It’s all about the premium of space, and if you take up more space, you have to pay for the extra real estate. Even if the sign says one rate, you could be looking at a serious surcharge for that big vehicle .

TIME WASTED: Valet parking often means a long wait at the end of the event. There might be a line waiting for cars, or your car might be packed in behind others and so will take a while to extract. (Oh, and did you tip well? Because a good tipper might just get a bit quicker service in hope of a quicker turnaround). Or if you parked on the street a good distance from the venue, you will now have to hike back to your car. Then sit in traffic, burning gas. If you want to go somewhere else not in the neighborhood for a post-game party, you have all the same parking problems. Time wasted handling the hassles instead of having fun with your friends.

When you add up the hassles and the cost (not to mention the potential costs of damage or towing), you might consider going with a chauffeured car for the night. Let the driver worry about the traffic. You have all the privacy and control you would have in your own car. And you and all your friends can party as much as you want. There’s no time wasted searching for a parking space, walking back and forth from a spot a mile away, no bumper dents on your car, no worries at all. Just a great game, a great night, and all on your own terms.

Do you have a parking “night out” horror story? Tell us about it. We’d love to hear from you.

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