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NY Times, Dec. 25, 2019
The Hidden Perk That New York’s Mega-Rich Now Demand
By James Barron
Sean O’Connor drove his Jeep into the porte cochère and through the wide
garage door at the far end and got out.
After that, the garage took over, but not with an attendant behind the
wheel. The garage in Mr. O’Connor’s luxury building in Lower Manhattan
is automated. No one touched the Jeep as it was lifted to its parking
space five floors above.
The parking system is a high-tech twist possible in a building with a
porte cochère, the urban version of a carport — a
covered-driveway-and-entry combination that was popular in the days of
horses and carriages.
“Porte cochère” — pronounced port KO-shair —is a French term that
originally described an entrance to a building large enough for a coach
to be driven into an interior courtyard. Think palaces. Think Louis XIV.
With New York experiencing a new gilded age, porte cochères are making a
comeback in high-end buildings, like 565 Broome Street, where Mr.
O’Connor is the resident manager and where the least-expensive apartment
on the market is listed at $3.925 million.
The modern porte cochère is all about invisibility, or at least
providing cover from prying eyes on city streets.
Celebrities, V.I.P.s and ultra-high-net-worth types, especially those
who are not regulars in the gossip columns, do not want to be seen
coming and going. The porte cochère is their shield from photographers,
professionals and fans or mere passers-by with cellphones held high.
In 2019 New York, many of those residents live in buildings where
apartments sell for seven or eight figures. “Only a building that’s
catering to a very affluent tenantry could afford to do this,” said
Mosette Broderick, a professor at New York University.
Porte cochères take up space — more space than many New Yorkers’
apartments — and space is, of course, valuable. At more than 2,000
square feet, the porte cochère at 40 East End Avenue, a new building on
the Upper East Side, is at least three times the size of the average
Manhattan apartment (733 square feet, according to the rental website
At 111 West 57th Street, an 82-story tower on Billionaires’ Row, the
developers created a porte cochère by scooping out a section of the
former Steinway & Sons building.
The Waldorf-Astoria is dividing its famous porte cochère, really an
underground passage running the width of the building between East 50th
and East 49th Streets.
Half will serve the hotel that will occupy part of the building when a
top-to-bottom renovation is completed in 2021, and half will serve the
condominiums in the other part. The prices for the condos have not been
“A private porte cochère has become a benchmark for buildings at this
level, and really a requirement,” said Dan Tubb, the sales director for
Douglas Elliman at the Waldorf. “There is a greater need to have a
transition from the energy of the street, especially here in Manhattan,
into a more serene and serviced environment.”
Such buildings have staffs that can help load the tote bags that
residents take to their weekend houses in Connecticut or the Hamptons.
To doormen and porters falls the responsibility of keeping up with the
parade of look-alike Cadillac Escalades and Mercedes S class sedans.
Scott J. Avram, a senior vice president of Lightstone, the developer at
40 East End Avenue, called the porte cochère “more important than a lot
of more traditional indoor amenities,” like private dining rooms,
reading rooms and game rooms.
But some critics believe the porte cochère should never have been
“It’s being brought back at a time when the need for cars is less and
less apparent,” said Adrian Benepe, a former New York City parks
In the last several years, the city has begun moving away from the car
culture that has dominated the streets for much of the 20th century.
Miles of bus and bike lanes have been installed, and New York is poised
to become the first American city with a congestion pricing plan
intended to get cars off the busiest streets. Starting in 2021,
motorists will have to pay a toll when they drive into most snarl-prone
parts of Manhattan.
Julia Vitullo-Martin, a senior fellow at the Regional Plan Association,
said car culture had “become the ultimate inequality” in New York.
“Very wealthy people not only have cars, they have one per adult — one
S.U.V. per adult — in a household,” she said, adding that in some
distant neighborhoods, residents need cars to connect with subway or bus
By all accounts, the porte cochère’s heyday ended decades ago. Few
buildings were built with them after World War II.
“They were going out of style when the automobile was still very much
dominant,” Mr. Benepe said, “and now that public transportation
alternatives are becoming more dominant and the automobile is becoming
less and less important as a means of transit, it’s confounding that the
porte cochere would be brought back.”
But not to Mr. Avram on East End Avenue.
“The predominant buyer at this price point will have a car,” Mr. Avram
said. “Five million to 25 million. That’s a homeowner and a car owner. A
lot of them have drivers. So, whether you’re driving yourself or being
dropped off, a car is a part of your life.”
For those who use Uber as their regular means of getting around, porte
cochères are a plus, especially on bad-weather days, said William
Sofield, the architect for the interior spaces at 111 West 57th Street,
where the porte cochère is on the 58th Street side.
“You wait often,” he said. “My own experience is you can wait for a very
long time when it says the car has been rerouted.”
The West 57th Street building took advantage of what it inherited —
breaks in the sidewalk for driveways that dated to loading docks from
when the building belonged to Steinway & Sons, the piano manufacturer.
The old Steinway building is connected to a new structure that towers
Those breaks are known as curb cuts and “are extremely difficult to
get,” said Marci Clark, an architectural historian who is development
director of JDS Development Group, one of the three developers behind
111 West 57th Street.
The West 57th Street building is still under construction, as is the
Waldorf. But one new building with a porte cochère has already made the
gossip columns: 70 Vestry, where Tom Brady of the New England Patriots
and his wife, Gisele Bündchen — whom Forbes lists as one of the
highest-paid models in the world — were said to have bought an apartment
on the 12th floor for $24.5 million.
One of their neighbors who asked not to be named said the porte cochère
added more than convenience to living in the building.
“You feel safe,” she said. “When you come home late at night, the taxi
can drop you off in the porte cochère.”
Some older buildings have blocked off their porte cochères and no longer
use them to accommodate cars. Arthur Weinstein, a lawyer who has lived
at 924 West End Avenue since 1969, said the decision there was made
“People tried to beat the parking problem by sticking their cars inside”
the porte cochère, he said. Besides, he said, the building’s porte
cochère was never wide enough, he said. “We decided it had no good
For 44 years, Ms. Vitullo-Martin has lived in a building with a porte
cochère that leads to a courtyard with an urban garden — the Belnord, on
West 86th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue.
She and her husband are rent-regulated tenants; in recent years the
Belnord has been renovated as a condominium, with apartments listed for
as much as $11.45 million.
As the prices at the Belnord have risen, the size of the vehicles that
drive into the courtyard has also grown.
“These S.U.V.s are like trucks,” said Ms. Vitullo-Martin, who does not
own a car. “It’s as if the courtyard is open to the trucking industry.”
James Barron is a Metro reporter and columnist. He is the author of the
books “Piano: The Making of a Steinway Concert Grand” and “The One-Cent
Magenta” and the editor of “The New York Times Book of New York.”
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