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Co-op Parking Goes From Headache to Money-Maker

Marianne Schaefer in Bricks & Bucks

Forest Hills

Parking Headaches

The math appeared to be simple. A 120-unit co-op in Forest Hills, Queens, has 98 parking spaces – 50 in a downstairs garage, the other 48 in an upstairs outdoor deck – more than enough to allocate a space to every shareholder with a car. So the co-op entered into a $3,000-per-month lease with a garage operator, which specified that the indoor spaces were reserved for shareholders and the operator was free to rent outdoor spaces on an hourly, weekly, or monthly basis. Simple, right? Not quite. The arrangement became a chronic headache.

“For years the board had to listen to complaints from shareholders about the parking situation,” says board president Ray Ochs. “The main complaint was that in order to make a healthy profit, the garage company packed cars in so tightly that shareholders always had to wait a long time to either get their car out or find a parking space. It didn’t matter if they parked outside or indoors. Literally every available inch of space was packed with cars.”

Shareholders parked their own cars, and they frequently came home late at night and couldn’t find a vacant spot, either in the garage or on the deck. They then had to alert the attendants, who had the keys to the outsiders’ cars. According to Ochs, it was not unusual that 50 cars had to be moved to get a shareholder’s car in or out. “It was a mess,” he says.

When the upstairs deck needed repairs, the co-op came to an agreement with the garage operator that during the renovation the monthly rent of $3,000 would be waived and all shareholders were allowed to park inside the garage. “During the renovation,” says treasurer Dave Abramahov, “we looked at the rates for parking in the neighborhood. We found that there is a significant amount collected for parking in areas around us. We’re next to an expressway and the Long Island Railroad, so we figured we could use that to our advantage to collect rent from people who are not living in the building.”

When the contract with the garage operator expired, the board, as eager as any board to boost revenue, decided to go to self-managed parking. They raised garage prices for shareholders from $183 to $200, while outdoor spaces rose from $155 to $175.

“It also turned out,” says Ochs, “that shareholders who had parked inside the garage during the renovation loved it so much that they didn’t want to move back to the deck, and the co-op ended up with about 40 empty outdoor parking spaces. We decided we would rent those to outside parkers on a monthly basis only.”

They advertised at a monthly rate of $275, and after one year almost all of their parking spaces are rented. “As an additional amenity we brought in ZipCar,” says Abramahov. (There are other car-sharing options that bring in revenue.) “They’re renting four spaces. Also, the first floor of our building is all commercial, and we offered them outside spaces at a reduced rate, which they gladly accepted. This all balances out to a profit of not just $3,000 but $9,000 per month.”

Every shareholder now has now an assigned space, and there’s no waiting to park or retrieve a car. The board also installed cameras so the doorman can monitor the garage at all times, and it contracted with a snow-plowing company. Though these additional services cost money, the new self-managed parking operation has turned a chronic headache into a reliable money-maker.

“But the real value,” says Abramahov, “is that the shareholders are happy now.”

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