Want to be like Frank Sinatra and wake up in the city that never sleeps? Want to get your Gossip Girl on (or at least do some heavy-duty window shopping?) Want to imagine your musical number in Times Square?

First, you need to get there. And that involves a more Herculean effort than finding the best New York pizza: parking.

Parking in NYC isn’t impossible, but it can feel an awful lot like standing in line at the next “It” club.

How Parking in NYC Works

The truth is, there are 81,875 metered parking spaces in New York. Sounds like a lot, right? Until you realize that there are between 3.4 and 4.4 million unmetered parking spaces in New York, which means only 1.9% to 2.4% of all on-street spaces have a meter. That’s an enormous giveaway of public spaces, but more importantly for your purposes, it means that all but 97.6% to 98.1% of public parking in New York requires drivers to move after a certain time limit.

In translation? Finding parking in New York (on-street parking anyway) is like hunting for a needle in a hayfield.

Because New Yorkers slow down for no man, most New York drivers rely on parking garages instead. According to Park It! Guides, a directory of Manhattan parking garages, there are 1,100 off-street parking garages and an additional 100,000 spaces in outdoor parking lots. However, keep in mind that garages range from a matchbox (like one garage on 324 West 11th Street with seven spaces!) to the occupancy rate of a New York apartment complex (like one garage at Pier 40 and West Street with 3,500 spaces!).

The trick isn’t finding parking, per se. The trick is finding convenient parking. Oh, and a fair rate.

How Much is Parking in NYC?

And speaking of fair rates, on a scale of one to Carrie Bradshaw’s wedding price tag, what counts as a fair rate in New York? Well, Dorothy, you’re not in Kansas anymore.

For a start, parking rates aren’t consistent across the entire city. Instead, parking rates are set within the limits of each of the five boroughs (the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island). That’s because parking rates in each area are reflective of neighborhood parking conditions, including parking demand, land use, and density.

There are also parking zones (not to be confused with the boroughs) defined by the New York Department of Transportation tailored to improve curb access, shorten turnover, and increase availability. And if you’re driving a commercial vehicle, that’s a whole different ballgame.

Generally, on-street parking rates run between $1.25 and $7.50 for non-commercial vehicles depending on the zone, with rates posted on the meter itself and time limits ranging from one hour to 15 hours. Meter regulations are not in effect on Sundays, and there are certain times when metered spaces are not available for use due to street cleaning or deliveries (this often varies on a block-by-block basis, so read the street signs carefully). 

Parking garage rates are a completely different animal (hint: more expensive) but some garages offer you a discount if you reserve a parking space in advance.

How to Avoid Parking Tickets

Anyone who has ever visited New York (along with every New Yorker ever) will tell you not to drive in New York if you can help it. Once you’re inside the city, you can get pretty much anywhere cheaply by using the subway. But there are some occasions that require driving, and for that, you need to know the rules of the road.

First, don’t block the box, i.e. if you see the traffic light is about to change, don’t try to speed through it. Stay put, even if the cab drivers blare their horns at you. Otherwise, you may end up blocking the intersection, which will win you a lot of angry New York drivers and a hefty fine to boot. Also, there’s technically a law against excess honking in New York, but you’ll soon discover it’s not enforced.

Second, remember the magic number: 15. As in, stay 15 feet away from a fire hydrant when you park or you will be towed. If you park near a crosswalk, both sets of tires need to be planted completely off the crosswalk or you will be ticketed.

Third, road signs are your new BFF. For instance, there are several major avenues that don’t allow you to turn left during certain hours, and road signs are what keep you out of trouble.

Where to Park in NYC

Ready to get off the road? Let’s talk about where to park.

First, know that New York is a numbered grid made of streets and avenues. The gridded part is everything above Houston Street, with streets running east to west and avenues running north to south, always perpendicular to each other. Most streets are denoted with an East or West marker, which tells you whether you’re east or west of Fifth Avenue. Odd-numbered streets run east to west. Avenues are numbered ascending from east to west.

The southernmost street is East 1st Street in the East Village and the northernmost is 220th Street in Manhattan’s Inwood neighborhood, but street numbers in the Bronx go as high as 263.

With that in mind, if you’re parking in Manhattan south of 125th Street, parking is at a premium and has lots of rules. Outside of Manhattan, you may not need to pay (if you can find a street spot), but pay careful attention to street signs. You’ll have better luck in parking garages, but garages are at a premium in popular areas and event parking (a la the Theater District or any parking garage in the vicinity of a concert venue).

Your best bet is to know exactly what parking garage you’ll park in and reserve your space before you start driving. Pro tip: always reserve a parking space in New York. Trust us, it’s life-changing.

The Best Parking in the City That Never Sleeps

We offer reserved spaces at 16 parking garages near popular venues in New York like Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, and Gramercy Theater, to name a few. That way, you can take all the stress out of parking in NYC and instead focus on what you came for–living large in the Big Apple.