One of the most common questions we get from our suburban tour groups is: Where do NYers park their cars? Short answer – we dont, because we dont have any! Various statistics have car ownership in Manhattan hover around 25% (of 1.4 million people) and for the outer-boroughs, at a 50-50 split of car owners vs non. Thanks to the most extraordinary public transit system in the world, the New York City Subway, we don’t need cars. I didn’t get my driver’s license til I was 20, and that was thanks to living in Boston with a car-owning girlfriend.
Even still, upon returning to my hometown of Brooklyn in 2003, I never expected to own a car. I would simply ride the bus, the subway or my bicycle. When feeling particularly flush, I hopped a cab. When push came to shove and I had to transport furniture, I could always borrow Dad’s trusty green Honda CRV. Dad’s CRV was known as “the Ghost 3″, because it’s his 3rd identical green CRV; the first got wrapped around a lamppost a few blocks from Casa Levy by a larcenous (and uninvited) teen party guest and the second got totaled on the Queensboro Bridge by yours truly.
Then, in 2008, the economic recession hit and fellow tour guide Jonathan Turer decided he had to sell his extra car – a sweet little 1998 Hyundai Elantra Station Wagon. Painted a deep purple, I fell in love with the four-wheeled Eggplant Express (my name choice,) and at the low, low price of $1000, I couldn’t say no. How many miles were on my decade old, thousand-dollar, shaggin’ wagon? 71,000. Keep in mind this was not just a friend’s city car, but his second car to boot. The thing wasn’t used nearly as much as it would have been in the ‘burbs.
Short answer long: I love my car. It’s a dream machine. I cant believe I’ve gone 28 years without one. The Eggplant’s been used to move furniture, deliver cases of beer, party-hop, grocery shop, all the things that regular Americans who live in not-NYC do. Le Aubergine Machine (its sometimes-name, courtesy of good buddy Jean Barberis) has taken road trips near and far – from apple picking upstate to Obama’s Inaguration in DC to Christmas in VA to Oyster Roasts in NC. Car insurance in Brooklyn is expensive – some of the highest in the nation, so we have a car-coop with friends to share the monthly cost. And the clicker just clicked 100 Ks. I wasn’t there to witness it, as it happened on a friend’s return trip from Boston. But the 100,000 moment occurred between his place and mine, which means it happened in Brooklyn, baby.
Lord knows Ive had to get some work done on the Eggplant. Luckily I’ve got the most honest crooks in Brooklyn – the good car guys at Superior Care. They’ve replaced the driver belt, timing belt, muffler, tires, engine block, wipers, you get the picture. Its been an expensive ride, for wheels so cheap. Eventually the transmission’s gonna fall right out of the thing, and I will once again be a car-free New Yorker. Truth is, the car I’ve got is quite a luxury. But I don’t need it. Because I’m a New Yorker.
By Matt Levy