Trying to Make Parking in the City Less of a Pain

It's hard to find a place to leave your car. This app will let you borrow someone else's.

It’s no longer taboo to share our homes or our cars with people we don’t know.  Here, in a 2-part series, NYCity Lens explores two of the newest entries into the city’s sharing economy. Click here for part two.

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By Belen  Smole

Finding a place to park in the streets of New York City can be difficult. Just ask, Daniela Bucay, 23, of Brooklyn. “Parking in New York City is horrible, there are too many cars and not enough space,” she explained. “Once it took me an hour to find a place to park.”

Garages, of course, are an option. But they can easily charge up to $35 per hour, or as much as $600 per month for a space. Enter Parklee, a new app developed in Brooklyn. It is connecting drivers with homeowners, who offer their driveways for an extra income.

Borrowing a page from the success of Uber and Airbnb, Parklee took advantage of the sharing economy where it is completely acceptable to let strangers into your home, or driveway, for some extra money. 

“My PayPal account is growing, and I feel like I’m doing nothing to have money deposited in my account”, said Doreen Giuliano, 55, from Prospect Park that has had her driveway listed on Parklee for four months. “I highly recommend it. There’s no stress involved.”

However, something does worry her: alarms going off and not having the car keys to turn them off. “I don’t want to disturb my neighbors,” she concluded in a sad voice.

It didn’t stop her from joining Parklee’s happy participants. As of September 14th, the app has more than 3,000 users and over 500 spaces listed. Even though the app recommends what the service should cost, the driveway owners set their own price and availability. Some of them rent by the hour, some of them do it by the month. Most of the spaces are listed for $5.50 per hour; and some charge as low as $33 per week.

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Parklee gets 10 percent of each transaction. According to Theresa Previ, Parklee’s head of development, numbers are growing week over week. “On average we are getting 6 or 7 places listed per week, and we have more transactions than that,” she said.

Users find spaces on Parklee based on a Google map that shows the available driveways by area or zip code, and where they can also list their own spaces. “The app has been very easy to use. I’m not computer savvy, so sometimes I couldn’t maneuver, but I got help right away,” Doreen Giuliano, a driveway renter said about the customer support team. “They helped me solve all my problems.”

Getting Parklee off the ground, however, was not easy. “We started with an aggressive marketing campaign in different events, and going house by house trying to attract people,” said Nosson Berkovits, former chief operations officer at Parklee. “It was harder than I anticipated,” explained the ex COO that left the company in December because of differences in the management.

People feared drivers might overstay in their driveways, said Berkovits, explaining why potential driveway renters were hesitant. There was also a “price paradox,” he added, saying that people didn’t want to charge less than what they would pay for parking.

On the other hand, car owners haven’t been easy to convince either. “I’m not leaving my car,” said Tay Fields, 27, from the Bronx.“They’ll have to do background checks for me.”

Not everyone is as resistant to the idea. “It’d be good if it’s cheaper than airport parking or any regular garage parking,” said Julian Pitts, 27, Brooklyn. And Christine Montiel, 26, also from Brooklyn, said, “I’d probably choose a place to park my car that’s already reviewed. I probably wouldn’t be the first one just because I’d be sketchy about it.”

As with any sharing economy app, Parklee is largely based on the goodness of people, explained Parklee’s development head Previ. “Not everybody plays nice, but some people do,” she said. “You need to rely on that at the beginning stages.”

Parklee hopes to expand its service soon. “I see a product that has scalability to work in cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami. Any city or surrounding areas that has driveways and parking problems,” said  Leo Inguaggiato, the current director of operations at Parklee.  

The app already has some spaces listed in California and the Mid-West, said Previ, but it wasn’t intentional. “We didn’t mean to do that,” she said. “Somebody thought it was a great idea, signed up and listed their driveway for rent.”

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