Hidden deep beneath some of New York City’s most luxurious apartment buildings lies an exclusive world of futuristic parking lots where high-end vehicles are parked and picked up by robotic parking systems.
The high-tech spots are a rare amenity in the Big Apple, and if you want your car to occupy one of these VIP seats, you’ll have to be prepared to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The spots are only available to residents of buildings where the apartments will cost you several millions, and if you want your car to live there too, you’ll need between $300,000 and $595,000 more to free up valuable private garage space to win.
CNBC found two buildings in Manhattan that had parking spaces for sale in a so-called robo-parking garage.
The first is located at 121 East 22nd Street near Gramercy Park in New York, where a 140-unit condominium building was constructed Great brothers offers 24 automated parking spaces.
High above the 22nd Street condo’s underground parking garage is the wraparound deck of a 5 bedroom duplex that recently sold for $9.45 million with a $300,000 parking lot.
Earlier this month, Lori Alf, a full-time Florida resident, snagged a rare $300,000 spot when she bought the most expensive unit in the building: a 5-bedroom duplex measuring nearly 3,800 square feet.
She told CNBC the $9.45 million package was a gift to her children, who are now spending more time in New York.
The sun-drenched living area in Lori Alf’s penthouse unit at 121 E 22nd St.
Toll Brothers city life
Now, when Alf or her kids want to park the family’s Porsche Cayenne in the condo garage, they stop at a kiosk, where the wave of a small radio frequency ID tag opens access to an underground car hideout where no humans are allowed.
A push of a button at the kiosk sends a kick of life into an empty metal pallet on the floor below. It slides down a track onto a powerful lift that carries the empty pallet towards ground level to meet the Alfs, who can then carefully position their car on it.
When a vehicle enters the automated system, a motion panel sends messages to the driver to ensure the vehicle is properly positioned to begin parking.
Before their wheels are thrown away, a series of cameras scan the system’s input to confirm that the car’s trunk and doors are all closed – and that no objects or people have been left behind to impede the automation.
When the scanners give the all-clear, the pallet with the car on it disappears into the ground, pausing briefly while descending into the basement to rotate the vehicle 180 degrees before being pushed into one of the empty rooms.
The system can lift and shift two dozen cars across four rows and two tiers.
A car parked on the lower level of the automated parking garage at 121 E 22nd St where prices start at $300,000 per space.
Picking up the car is like choosing from a giant vending machine. Residents swipe their RFID tags again and the system delivers their cars in about 2 minutes and 15 seconds.
One of the advantages for Alf: she never has to put the car in reverse to leave the building.
“The car will be rotated for you by the robot,” she told CNBC. “Who doesn’t live for a robot to point you in the right direction in NYC?”
Pedro Fernandez, a local sales representative for Klaus Parking, the company that sold the German-made parking system to the building’s developer, told CNBC it’s the most automated garage he’s ever installed in Manhattan.
The company’s top-of-the-line system typically costs between $50,000 and $70,000 per spot installed. Fernandez said developers are investing over $1 million in smart parking infrastructure because it’s extremely efficient at arranging vehicles and maximizing space.
A look inside the robotic parking machine at 121 E 22nd St shows a system of pallets and hydraulic elevators maneuvering cars around a two-story underground parking structure.
“There was no other way to park 24 cars,” Fernandez said of the garage space at 121 East 22nd Street.
The self-parking system can unlock more parking spaces per square foot because it doesn’t require ramps and lanes that you see in most traditional garages, he said.
“As crazy as it sounds, $300,000 for a residential parking spot is considered a reasonable price in New York City,” said Senada Adzem, a Florida-based real estate agent at Douglas Elliman, whose team represented Alf in her recent purchase.
Adzem told CNBC that spots in the system that include an EV charging connector cost $350,000. And, electrified or not, each parking spot has a monthly maintenance fee of $150.
“The general lack of parking spaces in the city, an ongoing problem with no end in sight, will only escalate such prices,” Adzem said.
She believes the tight supply could turn the seemingly wasteful expense into a money-making machine for owners who could eventually resell their place for a profit.
A car in the automated parking garage at 520 West 28th, where spots start at $450,000.
Martien Mulder & relatives
Across town, parking is even more expensive in a building that was once the home of pop star Ariana Grande and now houses rock musician Sting and his film producer Trudie Styler.
Parking at 520 West 28th Street starts at $450,000.
The $16.5 million penthouse at 520 W 28th St occupies the 15th and 16th floors and features a 2,040 square foot terrace that wraps around the building’s curved glass facade.
Colin Miller / Relatives
The luxury residence, designed by famed architect Zaha Hadid and developed by The Related Companies, includes a 4,500-square-foot penthouse currently on the market for $16.5 million. And according to Corcoran’s listing agent Julie Pham, parking in the building’s garage can cost as much as $595,000 more per vehicle.
“I had never seen anything like it,” Pham said of the unique convenience.
Residents can use an app to communicate with the so-called “Secure Parking Portal” and remotely start the automated retrieval process so that the car is ready to drive when they are.
The $16.5 million penthouse listing includes ten rooms and nearly 4,500 square feet of indoor living space. The asking price does not include parking.
Colin Miller / Relatives
While Pham didn’t reveal the identities of past or current customers, she told CNBC that automated parking was a big draw for a famous resident, who had the parking lot inspected by a security team before moving in.
The unnamed celebrity’s reps approved the deal in part because the star was able to enter and exit the garage in complete privacy, Pham said.
“They liked the idea that you didn’t have to deal with a valet or servant or that nobody could come in right behind you,” she said.
And during the pandemic, the agent said, local residents wanting to minimize their exposure to Covid-19 have been pleased that they could drop off and pick up their vehicle without handing their keys to a valet.
While the automated spots are expensive, they’re nowhere near the most expensive in NYC.
According to Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel, a real estate appraisal and consulting firm, in recent years some condo developers have pushed their asking price to the $1 million mark for a basic concrete yellow-striped parking lot. Still, he said, it’s unlikely a spot with a 9-figure price tag has ever attracted an actual buyer.
“I’ve never found any evidence of their actual closures,” he told CNBC.
Miller, analyzing public records at the request of CNBC, said one of the most expensive parking lots sold in the city last year was at 220 Central Park South, where a lot sold for an impressive $750,000. Miller said based on public records it appears to be linked to an apartment in the building that fetched $16 million.
“It’s really hard to track because most of the sales are embedded in the sale of a unit,” Miller told CNBC.
And it’s even more difficult to track the sale of spots in the newer automated systems because, according to agents, in many cases the spots are actually licensed to buyers and not assigned and sold like most real estate.
Miller said his best estimate for the current rate of a single parking spot in NYC: “I think $300,000 to $400,000 is the sweet spot for new developments.”