Although New York City can be one of the most expensive places to visit, the Big Apple offers something many cities around the country do not: free overnight parking. Particularly in Brooklyn, Queens and the upper reaches of the West Side and East Side of Manhattan, you can find perfectly legal street parking for free. Here’s how.
New York City can be the easiest place to get around: the subway runs 24/7, and the compact midtown Manhattan area is ideal for walking. But sometimes, you just want to drive.
The secret is: you can. And you can find free parking, in residential areas of the Upper East Side, Upper West Side, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens.
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In NYC, parking is a skill, like knowing how to swipe your Metrocard on the subway or how to walk on a crowded midtown street.
Before your NYC family vacation, you might want to brush up on your parallel parking skills. Particularly when you are parking on the left side of a one way street. The last time you parallel parked may have been on your road test, and parking on the left side isn’t even tested. Well, at least not until you arrive in Manhattan!
Read More: Tips for Driving in New York City
Here are some other NYC parking tips:
1. Street Sweeping Rules, aka Alternate Side
You may not know it from the filthy condition, but NYC streets ARE cleaned regularly. This means that you have to move your car during the 90 minutes that one side of a street is cleaned. So if you park overnight near your friend’s apartment in Williamsburg, just make sure you don’t have to move the car for street cleaning.
2. This is the Bible
The Department of Transportation publishes a list of days when NYC parking rules are suspended. ALWAYS consult it. On holidays such as Christmas and July 4, even parking at meters is free. On lesser holidays such as Sukkot or Columbus Day, there is no street cleaning, but you’re still required to feed the meters.
3. The Day After Thanksgiving is NOT a Holiday
Every year, unsuspecting car owners are slapped with tickets because they assume that the Friday after Thanksgiving is a holiday. It is not. At least as far as parking regulations go. Be careful, or you may be going home with a ticket.
4. Don’t Drive Around
The mistake many people make is circling the block and ‘just missing’ that spot. Stay put! You can sit near the fire hydrant for 10 or 15 minutes and no one will bother you. When you see that spot open up across the street, you’re first in line for it.
5. Watch for Snow
If you are parked on the street and it’s going to snow, you have to be on the left side of the block. Plows throw snow onto the right side and your car can be buried. Two years ago, my daughter left her car on the right side of the street before a 16 inch snowfall and it was entombed for two weeks.
6. We Go Away on Holidays
Holidays big and small mean New Yorkers leave town en masse. Christmas, Easter, Jewish holidays, the ENTIRE week around President’s Day (public schools are on winter break then), July 4 – are all horrible times to drive OUT of the city. But if you are staying here, and want to park? It just got much easier. You won’t be competing with locals for parking spots on streets without meters.
7. Watch those Hatchbacks and SUVs
Cars park so closely together on the street that you often can’t open your hatchback, or even your trunk. If you are parked on the street, be careful not to pop the hatch while you are in the vehicle. Get out and make sure you have clearance first.
Cars that Help with NYC Parking
I just drove the Alfa Romeo Giulia around New York City for a few days. When you lock the car, the side view mirrors automatically fold in. This is ideal in a city where streets are narrow and even parking garages don’t offer a lot of wiggle room. You don’t want your souvenir of NYC to be a scratch or dent in the car.
The Alfa Romeo is also loaded with helpful technology like front and rear park assist. You get a view of the car on the large infotainment screen, alerting you to how close you are to the curb, the car behind you and the car in front of you. You also get alarms going off when you are close. It felt like there was an Amber Alert go off in the car. But I was able to park the car all over the city with ease and precision.
The Giulia is nice for driving around the city in winter since it has heated front and rear seats and a heated steering wheel. It also has run flat tires, so if one of NYC’s mega potholes attacks you, you can drive to a tire shop.
What About a Really Big Car?
I also recently drove the huge Chrysler Pacifica around the city for a week and had no trouble parking. But when I garaged the minivan, I had to pay extra for an oversized car.
What to Do When you Can’t Find a Parking Spot
Spothero offers discounted garage parking rates around the city. Using the app will show that a New York City parking spot in a nearby garage is, say $40, but if you walk a block or two, the rate goes down to $28. Note: that $28 can be for three hours if you are parking midtown. If you are driving a big car, be aware that some parking facilities won’t even accept minivans or full-size SUVs. Read the parking details before paying Spothero upfront.
Notable NYC Attractions with Parking Garages or Lots
Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York Botanical Garden
Brooklyn Museum of Art / shared lot with Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Bonus: Tesla superchargers
New York Aquarium / Coney Island
Hall of Science
Staten Island Zoo
Bonus: FREE parking
Notable Places WITHOUT Parking in New York City
Empire State Building
Madison Square Garden
Radio City Music Hall
Paying Just to Drive into Manhattan
In 2021, NYC will implement congestion pricing. That means you will have to pay for the privilege of being able to even drive in Manhattan below 60th Street. So just driving to Times Square will cost you. That’s when it will be time to figure out how to use the NYC subway!