Cannes 2024: Sean Baker’s Film ‘Anora’ is a One-of-a-Kind Sensation | FirstShowing.net

Cannes 2024: Sean Baker’s Film ‘Anora’ is a One-of-a-Kind Sensation

by Alex Billington
May 23, 2024

It’s always an especially exhilarating experience to stumble upon a film so completely unlike anything that has been made before that it leaves you on a cinematic high after walking out of the theater. At the midway point in the 2024 Cannes Film Festival, we finally get to experience the bliss of Anora, the latest film from American filmmaker Sean Baker. Anora is his eighth feature film so far, and he was already in Cannes in 2017 with The Florida Project (in the Directors’ Fortnight sidebar) and again in 2021 with Red Rocket. This might just be hist best yet. France obviously loves him, but so does everyone else – this film has received the highest marks out of any in the Main Competition from all of the critics at this year’s festival. The film’s title is the name of the young woman who stars in the film, a young stripper from New York City named Anora who falls for a rich Russian kid after he pays her to hook up with him. On a whirlwind trip to Las Vegas they end up getting married (Vegas, baby Vegas!!) – but there’s so much more going on in this film than just that.

Anora is written and directed and produced by Sean Baker, who is telling another wild and crazy story. Up-and-coming young actress Mikey Madison stars as Anora, who goes by Ani in the film. It’s a star making performance and she totally owns it. She works as a stripper at an upscale strip club in Manhattan (called “Headquarters”) and also occasionally hooks up with clients whenever she feels like it. One day, a Russian kid comes in named Ivan, also known as Vanya, played by Russian actor Mark Eydelshteyn. He’s the son of a Russian oligarch and has an endless amount of money to spend – so he hires her and they start to spend more & more time together. If you watch this film closely, they’re both young & dumb. That’s part of the plot whether you like it or not. Ivan just plays video games and gets wasted every day, spending all of his time in his (rather, his father’s) mansion when not out on the town. After a fun New Year’s Eve party, he hires Ani to be his girlfriend for an entire week, then flies a group of his friends to Las Vegas for more partying, where they end up deciding to get married in a “let’s do it!!” hangover haze. And this is when the real fun begins…

After the debauchery of this opening segment, the “oh shit” thrilling side of Anora kicks in. His parents find out he married a sex worker and freak out – these are extremely rich, powerful people who can do whatever they want, including cancelling a marriage. So they make calls and get their local guy to send his guys over to Ivan’s mansion to sort things out – and get the marriage annulled immediately. They’re in love, so they claim! So this obviously causes tons of chaos. The accuracy of the characters, this entire situation, how it all plays out, is so ridiculously spot on it’s almost unsettling how Sean Baker got all of this right. It’s brilliant. The film is one of the funniest of the year, and I was not expecting that with this kind of story. Despite the very serious, very emotional stakes of what’s going on with this marraige between these two youngsters, there’s humor coming from every line and every happening and every twist & turn. The whole second half of the film is getting compared to Uncut Gems, which makes sense, but it also feels quite unique in the way it follows Ani & Ivan and three men (two Armenians + one Russian who work for his parents) around the city.

Sean Baker is truly one of a kind, making films unlike anyone else that no one else can replicate in the same way. Anora is not just hilarious but incredibly deep, nuanced, layered, intelligent, complex filmmaking that gets every scene just right. I’m still breathless with joy over this film. I’m still going on & on raving about it and the way it handles everything in the plot, understanding the emotions of each character along with the audience’s engagement in the story. It’s best going in not knowing where the story goes and what happens next in each scene because the THRILL is watching it all play out. The second half if stronger than the first because there’s so much more going on – and the implications of their young love, the implications of own predicaments, are explored. I absolutely adore how the film grows & builds & morphs into something more (profound) as it plays out. Yes it’s filled with NYC intensity & thrills in the second half, but it’s also actually building and progressing and unraveling with an immense understanding of people, not just characters, but real people. This is a special filmmaking talent Baker has and it’s also what makes his films so memorable.

There’s no way I can talk about this film without mentioning one of the best parts of Anora. Yura Borisov has quickly become one of my favorite Russian actors, whenever he appears in anything you know he’s going to be the best damn character in it (also see: Compartment Number 6). His performance in this is especially unforgettable. He’s the real emotional core of the film. Everyone will fall head over heels for Mikey Madison, of course, and she absolutely deserves the acclaim for her remarkable performance as Ani. But it is Borisov who begins to take over and become a vitally important part of the plot and, once again, I was not expecting this. The final scenes in Anora are so extremely important to deciphering the rest of the entire film, and the point of everything we’re watching anyway. I worry that many viewers will not be able to fully grasp what is being said and the explanations here. There’s a depth to the characters that is revealed in these final scenes that is astonishing, making this film more than just another exercise in romantic comedy or big city thrills. This is the real magic of Sean Baker and his films, this is the real wonder of truly phenomenal filmmaking.

Alex’s Cannes 2024 Rating: 9.8 out of 10
Follow Alex on Twitter – @firstshowing / Or Letterboxd – @firstshowing

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Couples leverage ‘something borrowed’ to cut wedding costs

After facing the reality of how expensive fresh flowers could be when planning her own wedding, Della Larca founded Florèal Blooms, her luxury silk flower rental business, three and half years ago from her basement in Butler, New Jersey.

Larca’s business swelled last year, and she recently moved to a larger workspace to accommodate to the growing demand for her product brought by inflation and a backlog of events rippled by the pandemic.

The price of nuptials has continued to grow, with the cost of the average wedding reaching $30,000 last year thanks to steep inflation, according to an annual study by The Knot, a wedding website.

More from Life Changes:

Here’s a look at other stories offering a financial angle on important lifetime milestones.

Sixty-one percent of couples set to marry this year said the economy has already impacted their wedding plans, and the soon-to-be-wed have become savvier as they confront higher costs. Some, for example, are leaning into the wedding proverb of “something borrowed,” and seriously considering renting over buying —especially when it comes to flowers, fine jewelry and even their bridal dresses.

To make sure they’re really snagging a deal, however, couples must take into consideration the quality of the product they’re renting and whether rental requires added labor costs.

“It’s about making sure whatever you’re renting, think about the execution, think about who’s going to have to bring it out, set it up … is that cost worth it to you?” said Jason Rhee, director of celebrations and owner of Rheefined Company, a wedding and special events planner in Los Angeles.

Couples are renting flowers, jewelry and more

Courtesy of Something Borrowed Blooms

Laken Swan and Lauren Bercier founded Something Borrowed Blooms in 2015 after dealing with high costs for their own weddings. Bercier, in particular, suffered buyer’s remorse on her wedding day — after putting down the full deposit for fresh flowers, the blooms that arrived on her wedding day weren’t exactly what she’d had in mind, said Swan.

Unfortunately, the disappointment Bercier felt isn’t uncommon. The fresh flower industry can experience supply and demand issues, Swan said, and prices often reflect the fluctuation of what’s in stock and an event’s proximity to holidays like Valentine’s Day.

Prices for artificial flowers, on the other hand, are not as volatile — and brides are starting to notice.

Florèal Blooms saw an increase in demand in January 2021, when Larca was scheduling 20 to 30 consultations a week. For 2023, the company is fully booked until the end of the year. For its part, Something Borrowed Blooms is currently shipping out enough silk flowers each month for around 1,200 weddings, pacing up to 2,000 weddings per month this fall.

It makes economic sense: While the average cost of fresh flowers can come to at least $2,500 per event, you can save as much as 70% by renting silk flowers for a fraction of the price, Swan said.

How brides can dress best for less

Fine jewels are also within the average bride’s reach more than ever before. Brides who lack the disposable income to purchase fine jewelry but would value the experience of wearing one-of-a-kind pieces on their special day may want to consider renting expensive jewelry.

Rental prices for fine diamond jewelry at New York-based jeweler Verstolo range from $275 to $695, for example, and the cost includes insurance.

The same goes for wedding dresses.

While the average price for a typical bridal gown is $1,900 before alterations — an additional but often necessary service that could cost $500 to $700 extra — brides to be could rent a designer dress for the starting price of $2,000, with tailoring costs included, said Miriam Williams, co-founder of Atlanta bridal rental company Laine London.

“This next generation of brides is thinking about experiences over possessions,” said Williams. “It’s only natural that they’re rethinking what their wedding day might look like.”

While these may sound like great deals up front, couples should be sure to vet vendors’ quality controls — how they keep the repeatedly used items in top condition — and ask whether their services require additional labor costs. Otherwise, they could end up spending far more than anticipated.

What to consider before renting

Make sure you think about the execution of whatever it is you are renting, said Rhee at Rheefined Company.

“I think it’s amazing that there [are] opportunities for you to be able to rent things that you may not necessarily be able to afford, but then that’s where you just have to think about doing a little investigation,” he said. “Think about it if there is a person attached to that, or is there a service attached to what you need.”

For instance, Florèal Blooms provides a full team that delivers, sets up and packs up the flowers on the wedding day for a flat rate that’s included in the total cost.

“Quality would be the primary risk,” said Swan at Something Borrowed Blooms. Since you are renting something that has been used before, research past customer testimonies and try to work with companies that seem to pride themselves in quality control, added Swan.

If renting out artificial flowers, consider asking the rental company about quality control practices and whether their total costs include insurance for “wear and tear.”

“If there’s maybe a [flower] that was stained [by] red wine or something else, that particular floral is removed from the arrangement and we add a new floral in its place; sometimes, we’re just freshening up greenery,” Swan noted.

The same goes for bridal gowns and maintenance. Laine London expects “normal wear and tear,” and makes sure to hand-wash and drip-dry each gown after it is returned, as well as to refrain from using harsh chemicals, in order to maintain fabric integrity.

“We’re able to really bring the dress back to perfect condition after every use,” said Williams.

Something borrowed, something … bought?

On the other hand, in some cases it may make better sense to buy rather than borrow.

“You want to buy something that you’re going to wear, and that’s not going to sit in your safe and you’ll pull it out one or two times a year,” said Lauren Grunstein, vice president of sales, public relations and marketing for Verstolo.

Deciding whether to buy or rent is a very personal decision, added Williams at Laine London. She noted that her clients have other reasons for renting, not solely for budget reasons. “They don’t want to deal with it hanging in their closet,” she said, referring to wedding gowns.

However, if you plan to get multiple uses out of a bridal item in the future and you have a budget that supports it, it makes sense to go ahead and invest in that purchase, said Swan.

“But if you’re looking at items that are quickly used or disposed of, or don’t have additional uses in the future, that’s definitely an area that you want to consider renting.”

Correction: Florèal Blooms saw an increase in demand in January 2021. An earlier version misstated the year. Rental prices for fine diamond jewelry at Verstolo range from $275 to $695, for example and the cost includes insurance. An earlier version misstated the range.

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Why Amazon built a second headquarters and how the pandemic reshaped HQ2

Six years ago, Amazon kicked off a sweepstakes-style contest in search of where to build a second headquarters. The competition drew bids from 238 states, provinces and cities vying to be the next anchor for the nation’s dominant online retailer and second-largest private employer.

This week, Amazon formally opened the doors of the first part of its new East Coast headquarters, dubbed HQ2, in northern Virginia. The first phase, called Metropolitan Park, includes two 22-story office towers, which can accommodate 14,000 of the 25,000 employees Amazon plans to bring on in Arlington. About 2,900 employees have already moved in, and Met Park will be occupied by 8,000 employees in the fall.

Amazon built its headquarters in Seattle in 1994 partly because of the area’s deep pool of tech talent and the presence of Microsoft in nearby Redmond, Washington. The company’s Seattle campus now spans tens of millions of square feet across more than 40 office buildings, and the greater Puget Sound area has 65,000 corporate and technical Amazon employees.

It raises the question why Amazon, with its sprawling campus in Seattle and a growing real estate footprint globally, needed to build a second headquarters.

Around 2005, as Amazon’s business grew and its campus ballooned in Seattle, founder and then-CEO Jeff Bezos began to consider where the company should expand next.

At all-hands meetings, employees would ask Bezos “if we would ever be in one location at one time,” said John Schoettler, Amazon’s real estate chief, in an interview.

“I think that there was a romantic notion that we as a company would only be so big that we’d all fit inside one building,” Schoettler said. “[Bezos] had said, well, we have long-term leases and when those leases come up, I’ll work with John and the real estate team and we’ll figure out what to do next.”

John Schoettler, Amazon’s vice president of global real estate and facilities, walks Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin through HQ2.

Tasha Dooley

Originally, Bezos suggested Amazon stay around the Puget Sound area, but the conversation then shifted to recreating the “neighborhood” feel of its Seattle campus elsewhere, Schoettler said.

“We could have gone out to the suburbs and we could have taken some farmland and knocked some trees down, and we would’ve built a campus that would have been very inward-looking,” he said. “They generally have a north or south entrance and exit east or west. When you put yourself in the middle of the urban fabric and create a walkable neighborhood, an 18-hour district, you become very outward, and you become very part of the community, and that’s what we wanted.”

Holly Sullivan, Amazon’s vice president of economic development, said it would have been harder for Amazon to create that kind of environment had it “sprinkled these employees around 15 other tech hubs or 17 other tech hubs around North America.”

“So what HQ2 has provided is the opportunity for that more in-depth collaboration and being part of a neighborhood,” Sullivan said.

‘I don’t see us getting bigger in Seattle whatsoever’

Amazon’s highly publicized search for a second headquarters has faced some challenges. In 2018, Amazon announced it would split HQ2 between New York’s Long Island City neighborhood, and the Crystal City area of Arlington, Virginia. But after public and political outcry, Amazon canceled its plans to build a corporate campus in Long Island City.

The company’s arrival in Arlington has generated concerns of rising housing costs and displacement. The company said it has committed more than $1 billion to build and preserve affordable homes in the region.

Schoettler said Amazon intends to focus much of its future growth in Arlington and in Nashville, Tennessee, where the company’s logistics hub is based. It also plans to hire as many as 12,000 people in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue, he added.

“I don’t see us getting bigger in Seattle whatsoever,” Schoettler said. “I think that we’re pretty much tapped out there.”

HQ2 has some of the same quirks as Amazon’s Seattle campus. There’s a community banana stand staffed by “banistas” and white boards on the walls of building elevators. Amazon has a dog-friendly vibe at its Seattle office, which carried over to Metropolitan Park, where there’s a public dog park, and a gallery wall of the dogs of Amazon employees. The towers feature plant-filled terraces and a rooftop urban farm that echoes the feel of the “Spheres,” botanical gardenlike workspaces that anchor Amazon’s Seattle office.

Metropolitan Park is the first phase of Amazon’s new Arlington headquarters, called HQ2.

Tasha Dooley

Amazon is opening HQ2 at an uncertain time for the company and the broader tech sector. Many of the biggest companies in the industry, including Amazon, have eliminated thousands of jobs and reined in spending following periods of slowing revenue growth and fears of a recession ahead.

Companies have also been confronting questions about what work looks like in a post-pandemic environment. Many employees have grown accustomed to working from home and have been reluctant to return to the office. Amazon last month began requiring corporate employees to work from the office at least three days a week, which generated pushback from some workers who prefer greater flexibility.

Amazon tweaked the design of HQ2 around the expectation that employees wouldn’t be coming into the office every day.

Communal work spaces are more common, and there’s less assigned seating, Schoettler said. Employees may only be at a desk 30% of the day, with the rest of their time spent in conference rooms, or having casual coffee meetings with coworkers, he said.

“If we don’t come in that day, no one else will utilize the space,” Schoettler said. “And so that way, you can come in, the desk is open and it’s not been personalized with family photos and that type of thing. You can sit down and absolutely utilize the space, and then go off about your day.”

Amazon’s HQ2 features some of the same quirks as its Seattle headquarters, like a community banana stand.

Tasha Dooley

The shift to a hybrid working environment has also influenced the further development of HQ2. Amazon in March said it had pushed out the groundbreaking of PenPlace, the second phase of its Arlington campus. PenPlace is expected to include three 22-story office buildings, more than 100,000 square feet of retail space and a 350-foot-tall tower, called “The Helix,” that features outdoor walkways and inside meeting areas for employees surrounded by vegetation.

Amazon will observe how employees work in the two new Metropolitan Park buildings to inform how it designs the offices at PenPlace, Schoettler said.

Amazon didn’t say when it expects to begin development of PenPlace, but it is continuing to move forward with the permitting and preconstruction process, Schoettler said.

“We just want to be really mindful, since we’re just opening these buildings, to make sure we’re doing it right,” Sullivan said. “These are large investments for us. We own these buildings, and we want to give them a long shelf life.”

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In Chinatowns across the U.S., tradition and history collide with luxury development

Just a few hundred people of Chinese heritage still live in Washington, D.C.’s Chinatown. Many have been pushed out to cheaper and safer areas.

Noah Sheidlower | CNBC

Penny and Jack Lee, now married, grew up in the 1960s and 1970s among the thousands of people of Chinese heritage who lived in apartments lining the main stretches of Washington, D.C.’s bustling Chinatown.

“Chinatown was very bright, vibrant,” Jack Lee recalled. “All of our recreations ended up being in the alleys of Chinatown.” They felt it was a safe haven, he said.

But the neighborhood didn’t stay the same for long. First came a convention center in 1982 that displaced many in the majority Chinese community. Then, in 1997, came the MCI Center, now Capital One Arena, a few blocks from the heart of the neighborhood. These developments, as well as luxury condos, caused rents to rise and forced grocery stores and restaurants to close. They also pushed residents to move to safer and cheaper areas, Penny Lee said.

Just a few hundred people of Chinese heritage still live in the neighborhood, mostly in Section 8 apartments for lower-income residents. There are now fewer than a dozen Chinese restaurants, as well as the long-standing Chinatown gate and non-Chinese businesses with signs bearing Chinese characters. Jokingly called the “Chinatown Block,” reflecting its diminished size, what’s left of the neighborhood is mere blocks from a wealthier area that contains the U.S. Capitol and the National Mall.

Chinatowns across the nation face a similar reckoning. In major Chinatown neighborhoods, luxury development and public-use projects have altered the fabric of these historic communities, according to more than two dozen activists, residents and restaurant owners. While some argue these developments accelerate local economies, many interviewed by CNBC say they destroy the neighborhoods’ character and push out longtime residents.

Some Chinatown residents benefited from the development boom, selling properties to developers or drawing more customers from increased foot traffic. Many others, meanwhile, have been driven out by higher rents, limited parking and increasingly unsafe conditions.

The changes in Chinatowns across the country look similar, though they’re unfolding at different timelines and magnitudes. Chicago’s Chinatown, in comparison with other Chinatowns with shrinking populations, more than doubled its Chinese population between 1990 and 2020.

“Those who are interested in preserving D.C. Chinatown should look toward its intrinsic value to tell the Chinese American story, the American story,” said Evelyn Moy, president of the Moy Family Association, which provides education and assistance to residents in Washington, D.C.

Noah Sheidlower | CNBC

Cities already deeply affected by gentrification and high-end development stand as templates for how the shift may unfold elsewhere. For many, housing is the problem — and the solution.

“We can’t build our way out of the housing crisis, but we can’t get out of the housing crisis without building,” said Ener Chiu, executive vice president of community building at East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation in California, which has built 2,300 permanently affordable homes in Oakland.

A case study in the heart of Manhattan

In Manhattan’s Chinatown, which dates back to the late 1800s, residents and local organizations said there are two interrelated fights: one against luxury development, and another to build more affordable housing and maintain existing apartments. Some have been frustrated that money and government support have gone toward skyscrapers and not the longtime residents who still struggle to secure housing in the neighborhood.

Opponents say tall, modern buildings — such as One Manhattan Square, a 72-story residential skyscraper in nearby Two Bridges developed by Extell Development Group, which features units priced at over $1.2 million — will affect surrounding property values, the structure of neighboring buildings and the percentage of Asian residents in Chinatown.

Opponents say tall, modern buildings such as One Manhattan Square affect surrounding property values, the structure of neighboring buildings and the percentage of Asian residents in Chinatown.

Noah Sheidlower | CNBC

There are also plans to develop four more towers ranging from 62 to 77 stories, each with 25% affordable housing, by Extell, JDS Development Group, and Chetrit Group.

City councilmember Christopher Marte and residents of the Lower East Side and Chinatown filed a lawsuit against the buildings’ developers and the city in October, arguing construction of the towers will create further environmental and health issues. The suit contends the developments violate the Green Amendment granting New York state residents the right to clean air.

Extell and JDS Development Group did not provide comment for this story.

Some residents have shown tentative support for the luxury buildings, saying they might make the neighborhood safer or bring in wealthier Asian residents who could boost Chinatown’s economy. Most who spoke with CNBC, however, expressed frustration over the rapid development of these megaprojects.

The Two Bridges fight is an experiment in looking out for residents’ livelihoods while “fighting against a very anti-humanity way of seeing a city,” said Alina Shen, the lead Chinatown Tenants Union organizer at grassroots community organization CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities. “It’s a response to the fact that people who remain in Chinatown feel a deep pessimism for what’s happening and from literally being in the shadow of a ledge of a mega tower.”

The struggle with luxury developers has also involved the fight for secure housing.

Manhattan Chinatown’s housing stock is “really aged,” which has led to costly fires, according to Thomas Yu, executive director of Asian Americans for Equality.

Noah Sheidlower | CNBC

Chinatown’s housing stock is “really aged,” but sparse vacant land has made creating affordable housing difficult, said Thomas Yu, executive director of Asian Americans for Equality, which has created 1,200 affordable housing units citywide. The development process for new units can take years, he said, and developers have rapidly sought out Manhattan’s Chinatown as the borough’s “last place with huge potential returns.”

Evictions, buyouts and deregulation of rent-stabilized housing have contributed to Chinatown’s population decline and illegal sublet situations, according to Yu.

Chen Yun, a tenant leader for CAAAV, said she had a landlord who for years refused to repair heating and hot water. She said she and her husband would boil pots of water at work and bring them home to bathe. They also dealt with a collapsed ceiling, she said. Yun spoke in Mandarin, translated by Shen and CAAAV communications manager Irene Hsu.

In 2005, Yun helped grow the Chinatown Tenants Union to help residents fight landlords and report faulty conditions. However, residents continue reporting similar housing issues, which Yun said has pushed some onto the streets, and more residents have mobilized to oppose developments they say could exacerbate these issues.

“No matter how beautiful or well-built these buildings are, [residents] simply can’t afford it, it’s not within their means, and these luxury buildings have nothing to do with us,” said Yun, who lost her job during the pandemic and spends much of her retirement money on rent.

Yu, of Asian Americans for Equality, said his organization is not against development but that more affordable housing should go up instead of solely market-rate buildings. Asian Americans have among the highest citywide poverty levels and have poor odds of finding secure housing, Yu said.

Some argue luxury development is eliminating affordable housing opportunities by sheer proximity, as one of Chinatown’s ZIP codes was excluded from a city loan program for low-income areas since it also included the wealthy Soho and Tribeca neighborhoods.

In Manhattan’s Chinatown, residents and local organizations said there are two interrelated fights: one against luxury development, and another to build more affordable housing and maintain existing apartments.

Noah Sheidlower | CNBC

Some residents expressed feeling an intense divide between their local government and Chinatown — fueled in part by rezoning debates, not to mention a proposed $8.3 billion 40-story jail in the neighborhood.

Zishun Ning of the Chinatown Working Group has led protests against the proposed jail, as well as against the Museum of Chinese in America, which stands to benefit from the jail’s expansion via a $35 million government investment. Ning said the city government’s “big development” agenda has “pitted us against each other.”

The museum’s leaders said they’ve been scapegoated, as they weren’t included in development talks with the city but could not turn down the money.

Moving out

For many Chinatown residents, rising rents and sparse affordable housing have left them with one choice: moving away. But challenges often follow residents, and once they resettle, some face familiar changes.

Maggie Chen, a receptionist in Boston who has lived in an affordable housing development for eight years, said rising rents have made her reconsider whether living in Chinatown is economical.

Noah Sheidlower | CNBC

Many Chinese residents have relocated from Boston’s Chinatown to the nearby suburbs of Malden and Quincy, said Angie Liou, executive director of Boston’s Asian Community Development Corporation. Luxury buildings have opened in these suburban satellite Chinatowns as developers look to capitalize on less developed parts of the city, pushing residents further away.

In Manhattan, a woman with the surname Yang, who requested partial anonymity to preserve her privacy, said she had lived in a $1,100-per-month Chinatown apartment, which her family could no longer afford due to increasing rent. After applying for public housing through the NYC Housing Authority, she moved eight miles away in 2009 into a $400-per-month apartment in East Harlem.

“It was a hard readjustment period just because my life is even to this day still tied to Chinatown, so the train commute is an extra hour,” Yang said. She spoke in Fujianese, with translation by Ling Ren, Asian Americans For Equality’s manager of residential services.

Some Chinatown residents have looked to the suburbs for cheaper rent, lower maintenance costs and better parking, said Patty Moy, manager of China Pearl Restaurant, which has locations in Boston and Quincy, Massachusetts.

Noah Sheidlower | CNBC

“One of the unique aspects of Flushing is what I call the 15-minute neighborhood, the idea that you can live, work, play, go to school, partake in open space, shop, sort of all within 15 minutes,” said Ross Moskowitz, partner at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, who represents several developers’ projects in the neighborhood.

And as more people move in, rents go up, meaning many residents who relocated to Flushing for cheaper rent have found themselves in the same battles with developers that they fled from, according to Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of Asian American Federation.

Chinatowns and the pandemic

Many debates surrounding luxury development and affordable housing were accelerated by the pandemic, which shuttered hundreds of businesses across Chinatowns. After experiencing xenophobia and discrimination fueled by anti-Chinese sentiment during the pandemic, many people stopped coming to Chinatowns and frequenting restaurants, clothing stores and art shops. Local families were forced to restrict spending, and some businesses had to cut staff and hours.

Some businesses in Oakland have been unable to build back after looting and anti-Asian attacks on public transit caused many residents to fear going out after dark, said Evelyn Lee, former president of the board of directors at Oakland Asian Cultural Center. This has contributed to reduced pedestrian traffic in Chinatown, she said.

Manhattan Chinatown native David Leung took over Wo Hop Restaurant in 2016. Leung reduced his restaurant’s hours in 2020 during the Covid pandemic and watched as storefronts emptied.

Noah Sheidlower | CNBC

Mei Lum is the fifth-generation owner of Wing on Wo & Co., the oldest operating store in Manhattan’s Chinatown, as well as the founder of the W.O.W. Project. She said there isn’t a robust next generation to “really problem-solve and think through these circumstantial, political, and contextual issues arising in the neighborhood.”

Noah Sheidlower | CNBC

Still, many small businesses are threatened by the changes. The new generation hasn’t frequented restaurants such as Hop Lee as often as older clientele due to differences in taste, said the restaurant’s owner, Johnny Mui.

“A lot of our businesses now, they’re more for a higher income bracket, and it’s just growing over the years slowly,” said Carry Pak, a Chinatown resident and CAAAV youth leader. “Having spaces where the immigrant community can still feel comfortable with being able to speak the language to street vendors or grocery vendors is particularly key.”

The stadium debate

Another common issue facing Chinatowns: sports arenas and other public-use venues. Some argue stadiums can provide Chinatowns with more foot traffic and opportunities, though others say they have historically destroyed homes and attracted chain businesses that outcompete Chinatown businesses.

Plans for a new Oakland Athletics ballpark a mile from the city’s Chinatown, which prompted concerns from residents, fell through last month after the team purchased land for a new stadium in Las Vegas.

In Philadelphia, plans for a new arena have irked some Chinatown residents and business owners, who say developers and city governments have neglected the community’s needs.

“We as a community need to be opposing it as much as possible in case there’s legs to this idea that the arena is going to be built,” said John Chin, executive director of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation.

Pia Singh | CNBC

A proposed $1.3 billion Sixers arena would sit blocks from the city’s Chinatown Friendship Gate. The privately funded arena is in the first stages of construction. Developers are working on gaining entitlements and approvals as the project moves toward its scheduled September 2031 opening date.

The development team expects the 18,000-seat arena to be a “major economic driver” for Philadelphians, projecting $400 million of annual economic output and 1,000 jobs.

Since the proposal was made public last summer, several Chinatown community members and residents petitioned the developers and city leaders to shutter the project. Experts previously said professional sports stadiums fail to generate significant local economic growth, and tax revenue is insufficient to make positive financial contributions.

The owner of Little Saigon Cafe in Philly’s Chinatown, a man known as “Uncle Sam,” leads a coalition of more than 40 association leaders against the arena development. Uncle Sam, a Vietnamese refugee, came to the city more than four decades ago.

“If the arena is built, it will destroy a community, destroy our culture,” he said.

“We’ll fight to the end. We’ll do everything we can to defeat this [arena] project,” said “Uncle Sam,” the owner of Little Saigon Cafe in Philadelphia’s Chinatown.

Pia Singh | CNBC

Private and government-led investments in public spaces have pushed out lower-income residents, said John Chin, executive director of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corp. His organization empowers native Chinese speakers to voice their opinions to Chinatown’s elected officials, city representatives and Sixers development heads.

The Sixers did not respond to a request for comment on how the development would impact Chinatown.

Last month, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced the city would conduct an independent study on the arena’s impact on the community.

Staying alive — and growing

Many Chinatowns have struggled to secure government support while they contend with tough conditions in the economy and the real estate market.

Yet some Chinatown leaders remain optimistic they can work with developers to maintain the neighborhoods’ character. Some leaders doubled down on fighting developers to preserve historic architecture and businesses, while others embraced development to grow opportunities for residents.

Business owners in San Francisco’s Chinatown who spoke with CNBC said the neighborhood’s businesses, though still recovering, are keeping the city’s culture alive.

Rebecca Smith | CNBC

San Francisco Chinatown’s more than 14,000 residents, many of whom are low-income and elderly, have faced housing shortages. Modern businesses are taking over decades-old shops.

However, business owners who spoke with CNBC said Chinatown’s businesses, though still recovering, are keeping the city’s culture alive.

George Chen, who owns the contemporary Chinese restaurant China Live, remains optimistic about getting San Francisco’s Chinatown back to its heyday.

“You can look from my roof and go see pretty much the 22 blocks of Chinatown, and I think there’s a cultural relevance to keeping the immigrant story alive,” Chen said.

At least one U.S. Chinatown has grown while others shrink.

The Asian population of Chicago’s Chinatown has more than doubled in three decades, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Many new residents are Fujianese from Southeast China and have driven new restaurants, buildings and support services.

Paul Luu, CEO of Chicago’s Chinese American Service League, said families have moved from other Chinatowns to Chicago’s to take advantage of the city’s nonprofits and the growing local job market. He added that its distance from the pricier South Loop makes prices cheaper than in other cities.

The Asian population in Chicago’s Chinatown has more than doubled in three decades, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Noah Sheidlower | CNBC

Despite the growth, Chicago’s Chinatown is facing some of the same issues as those in other cities.

Some residents have expressed concerns about a $7 billion development called The 78, which will include high-rises, residential towers, office buildings and a riverwalk to the north of Chinatown. Some fear The 78 would raise rents and property taxes, as well as push out local businesses and residents.

Luu said The 78’s leadership team approached Chinatown leaders early in development to hear concerns and work to establish more affordable and accessible housing and commerce.

As high-end development occurs in the right locations, it can promote the local economy and encourage progress, said Homan Wong, an architect on the board of directors for the Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce. He said issues of parking and safety still hurt Chicago’s Chinatown but that the Chamber remains focused on working with developers to keep the community growing.

“The opposite of development would be decay,” he said. “The reality is that if you don’t move forward, you’re going to fall behind.”

— Noah Sheidlower reported from Boston, Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. Pia Singh reported from Philadelphia. CNBC’s Rebecca Smith contributed reporting from San Francisco.

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NYC skyscrapers turning to carbon capture to lessen climate change

From the outside, the Manhattan high-rise looks like any other luxury building: a doorman greets visitors in a lobby adorned with tapestry and marble.

Yet the basement has a set of equipment seen almost nowhere else in the world. To reduce emissions, the owners have installed twisting pipes and tanks that collect carbon dioxide from the building’s massive, gas-fired boilers.

Explained | What is carbon capture and utilisation?

The goal is to stop carbon dioxide, a climate-warming gas, from entering the atmosphere. In such a vertical city, it’s impossible to address climate change without tackling emissions from buildings. So building owners must make dramatic cuts starting next year or face escalating fines under a new law which affects some 50,000 structures — more than half the buildings in the city. Other cities such as Boston and Denver passed similar laws.

To comply, some property managers are installing carbon capture systems, which strip out carbon dioxide, direct it into tanks and prepare it for sale to make carbonated beverages or soap. In this case, the carbon dioxide is sold to a concrete manufacturer in Brooklyn.

“Time is not on our side, and this type of solution can be installed quickly, cost-effectively and without a major disruption,” said Brian Asparro, chief operating officer of CarbonQuest, which built the system.

Critics say buildings should be switched to electricity instead.

Watch: The World’s Largest Carbon Capturing Plant

“Carbon capture doesn’t actually reduce emissions; it seeks to put them somewhere else,” said Anthony Rogers-Wright, director of environmental justice at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.

It’s unclear whether carbon capture will be recognised by New York City as a qualifying emissions reduction; the city has not decided.

Capturing the culprit

In the Manhattan building’s basement, two 500-horsepower boilers rumble, burning natural gas and releasing carbon dioxide. The boilers produce roughly half the building’s emissions. The other half are generated at power plants where the building buys electricity. The carbon capture system, Mr. Asparro said, is trapping about 60% of the boilers’ emissions.

“Boilers like this are installed everywhere, in schools and hospitals around the world,” Mr. Asparro said.

Carbon dioxide and other gases flow from the boilers over a special material that separates out the carbon dioxide in a system that occupies two former parking spaces. Then it’s compressed and cooled to -10 degrees Fahrenheit (-23 degrees Celsius), turning it to liquid.

Also Read: Denmark hopes to pump some climate gas beneath the sea floor

Pipes lead to spigots outside the building, where a truck loads up with the liquefied CO 2 and takes it to a concrete manufacturer in Brooklyn.

The apartment building is trying to reduce energy in other ways, too, said Josh London, senior vice president at Glenwood Management Corp. It has computerized motors, fans and pumps, LED lighting and battery storage. The company plans to install carbon capture systems in five more buildings this year.

Nearly 70% of New York City’s large buildings have steam boilers like these that run on natural gas or oil, according to NYC Accelerator.

The city law requires all buildings over 25,000 square feet to reduce emissions. In Minnesota, Radisson Blu Mall of America, a hotel, has installed a system that captures carbon dioxide that’s eventually used to make soap.

Mineralising into concrete

Over in Brooklyn, the floor shakes as yellow machines churn at Glenwood Mason Supply Company Inc., a concrete maker unrelated to Glenwood Management Corp. Grey concrete blocks rattle down a conveyor under a din of metal gears and motors.

A truck arrives with liquefied carbon dioxide and then, using equipment provided by a company called CarbonCure, it’s compressed and turned into a solid.

As concrete ingredients churn, the carbon dioxide, now essentially dry ice, flows in like a mist. It reacts with calcium ions in cement, a main ingredients of concrete. This forms calcium carbonate, which becomes embedded in the concrete.

Also Read: Bendable concrete and other CO2-infused cement mixes could dramatically cut global emissions

Once carbon dioxide is in that mineral state, it’s secure and it won’t be released unless heated to about 900 degrees Celsius (1,652 degrees Fahrenheit), said Claire Nelson, a geochemist who specialises in carbon capture at Columbia Climate School.

“So unless a volcano erupts on top of your concrete building, that carbon is going to be there forever,” Ms. Nelson said.

Adding mineralised carbon dioxide to concrete can reduce its carbon footprint, though not by much. On average, concrete producers using CarbonCure technology reduce their carbon footprint by 5% to 6%, said Robert Niven, CEO of CarbonCure. But that is still meaningful, because making concrete contributes significantly to climate change.

Questions remain

Many environmental groups remain skeptical of carbon capture, favoring investments in renewable energy. They also fear it could be unsafe to store carbon dioxide in a residential dwelling.

After a carbon dioxide pipeline ruptured in Satartia, Mississippi, in 2020, 45 people sought medical attention at local hospitals, according to a report from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. People exposed to high concentrations of carbon dioxide, the report said, may experience rapid breathing, confusion, elevated blood pressure and increased arrhythmias. Extreme concentrations can lead to death by asphyxiation.

There’s also a risk of leaks, if a truck transporting carbon dioxide gets into an accident, Mr. Rogers-Wright said.

Proponents of carbon capture say there are safeguards and the technology installed in Manhattan was permitted by multiple city agencies.

Also Read: The ocean twilight zone could store vast amounts of carbon captured from the atmosphere – but first we need an internet of deep ocean sensors to track the effects

Ms. Nelson, the Columbia geochemist, who also started a carbon capture company, says storing natural gas in basements is more dangerous than storing carbon dioxide, and many people accept the risks posed by natural gas.

The biggest challenge, proponents say, is scaling this and other solutions fast enough to make a difference in climate change.

Back in Manhattan, the local utility doesn’t have enough renewable energy to sell to all New York customers, and “with solar, you need a bigger footprint than what we have in a building like this,” Mr. London said. He wants to buy wind power when it’s more widely available, but “we can reduce our emissions while we wait,” he said.

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Concerned about the courts, some states and universities are stockpiling abortion drugs | CNN



CNN
 — 

With an eye on the courts, a growing number of Democratic-led states are stockpiling the pills that can be used for a medication abortion, the most common form of the procedure in the US.

The officials want to be prepared, in case US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s decision to suspend the US Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone goes through, so medication abortions would still be available in their states for some period of time. But they’re taking different approaches to the idea.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Tuesday that her state’s Department of Health would buy 150,000 doses of misoprostol, the other of the two drugs typically used in a medication abortion.

Misoprostol can be used off-label for an abortion, without mifepristone, but patients often have to use more of it. It would not be covered by the court case, and if Kacsmaryk’s decision stands, the New York City’s Health Department tweeted, it will change to using this medication only.

“Medication abortion continues to be available at our Sexual Health Clinics and NYC Health + Hospitals locations. Should mifepristone become unavailable, we will continue to make medication abortion accessible to all in NYC by shifting to a misoprostol-only treatment regimen,” the tweet said.

The state says the 150,000 doses should represent a five-year supply of pills.

“Anti-choice extremists have shown that they are not stopping at overturning Roe, and they are working to entirely dismantle our country’s reproductive health care system, including medication abortion and contraception,” Hochul said. “New York will always be a safe harbor for abortion care, and I am taking action to protect abortion access in our State and continue to lead the nation in defending the right to reproductive autonomy.”

California is also stocking up on misoprostol.

“While California still believes Mifepristone is central to the preferred regimen for medication abortion, the State negotiated and purchased an emergency stockpile of Misoprostol in anticipation of Friday’s ruling by far-right federal judge Matthew Kacsmaryk to ensure that California remains a safe haven for safe, affordable, and accessible reproductive care,” Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said in a release Monday.

California plans to purchase up to 2 million pills through CalRx, a state initiative set up to make drugs more affordable.

The governor’s office said the state now has more than 250,000 pills on hand, which it purchased for about $100,000.

California said it shared the terms of its purchase agreement with other members of the Reproductive Freedom Alliance, a nonpartisan coalition of 21 governors who are committed to protecting reproductive rights, and who might also be interested in taking such action.

Another member of that alliance, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, announced last week that his state bought a three year-supply of mifepristone, the drug at the center of Kacsmaryk’s ruling.

Inslee directed the state Department of Corrections – which has a pharmacy license and is legally able to buy medications – to buy the drug last month, he said, and the shipment was delivered March 31. The University of Washington also purchased 10,000 doses.

Lawmakers are introducing a bill to authorize officials to distribute or sell the medication to licensed providers throughout the state.

“This Texas lawsuit is a clear and present danger to patients and providers all across the country. Washington will not sit by idly and risk the devastating consequences of inaction,” Inslee said. “Washington is a pro-choice state, and no Texas judge will order us otherwise.”

In the meantime, its attorney general, Bob Ferguson, is helping lead a multistate lawsuit to protect access to mifepristone.

On Friday, the same day Kacsmaryk’s ruling came down, a federal judge in Washington ordered the US not to make any changes that would restrict access to mifepristone in the territories that brought the lawsuit: 17 states and the District of Columbia.

On Monday, Massachusetts Gov. Maura T. Healey announced that at her request, the University of Massachusetts and health care providers have also taken action to stockpile doses of mifepristone.

The governor’s office said last week that the university bought about 15,000 doses of mifepristone, enough to cover the commonwealth for about a year, and the pills are expected to arrive this week. Local health care providers have agreed to buy more, and the government agreed to set aside $1 million to pay for those doses.

The Massachusetts governor also signed an executive order confirming protections for medication abortion under existing law.

“Here in Massachusetts, we are not going to let one extremist judge in Texas turn back the clock on this proven medication and restrict access to care in our state,” Healey said. “The action we are taking today protects access to mifepristone in Massachusetts and protects patients and providers from liability. In Massachusetts, we stand for civil rights and freedom. We will always protect access to reproductive health care, including medication abortion.”

Danco Laboratories, the manufacturer of the brand-name version of mifepristone, says that orders for the drug have increased substantially in recent months and are significantly higher than they were at this time last year.

Demand for mifepristone is up across all types of customers, including clinics, pharmacies and individual providers, said Abby Long, Danco’s director of public affairs. But Massachusetts is the only state that has requested an especially large number of pills from the company.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills, who called the Texas decision “reckless” and a “fundamental assault on women’s rights,” said Monday that her administration is evaluating its options, “including procuring mifepristone if needed, to protect access to medication abortion for Maine women.”

The Connecticut governor’s office said Wednesday that it is also monitoring the situation.

Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek’s office said in an email Wednesday that she has directed the Oregon Health Authority to “explore all available avenues for ensuring Oregon is prepared should Mifepristone become less available. That includes evaluating the supply of Mifepristone and Misoprostol and consulting with providers to better understand the potential impact on the provision of abortion and reproductive health care and what additional support might be necessary.”



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I asked ChatGPT to help me plan a vacation. Here’s what happened next

Some people love travel planning.

But I am not one of those people.

So the idea that artificial intelligence chatbots, such as ChatGPT and Bing, can research travel destinations and create itineraries is intriguing.

But I’m skeptical too.

Do recommendations just scratch the surface — for example, suggesting that I see the Eiffel Tower in Paris? Or can they recommend lesser-known restaurants and handle specific hotel requests too?

The answer is: yes and no — at least for ChatGPT.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t test Bing. When I tried to access it, I was put on a waiting list. The website said I could “get ahead in the line” if I set Microsoft defaults on my computer and scanned a QR code to install the Bing app. I did both. I’m still waiting.

ChatGPT was easier. I went to the developer’s website, clicked on the word “ChatGPT,” registered for an account — and started chatting.

‘Can you help me plan a beach trip?’

“Of course!” replied ChatGPT. But first, I needed to tell it about my interests, budget and how long I planned to be away.

I’m looking for a week-long beach trip in mid-March to spend time with my family, with no set budget, I typed.

“Sounds like a wonderful idea!” it replied, before recommending Hawaii, the Caribbean — specifically the Bahamas, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic — Florida and Costa Rica, along with details about the weather and popular attractions for each.

Nice. But I live in Singapore, I said.

“I see!” it exclaimed. (ChatGPT loves exclamation points.) In that case, Bali, Indonesia; Langkawi, Malaysia; and Phuket and Krabi in Thailand were better choices.

ChatGPT is nothing if not apologetic.

Cost estimates for each hotel were more accurate. But ChatGPT couldn’t show photographs of the hotels or help book them — although it did provide ample instructions on how to do both.

By road or by rail?

Flights

ChatGPT can name airlines that connect cities, but it can’t give current flight information or help book flights.  

It wasn’t able to tell me the cheapest fare — or any fare — from London to New York this spring because it doesn’t “have access to real-time pricing information,” it said.

In fact, ChatGPT data ends at September 2021; it doesn’t “know” anything that’s happened since.

However, the bot could answer which month the London-to-New York route is usually the cheapest, which it said is “January and February, or during the shoulder season months of March and November.”

As for the best airline in the world, it said: “As an AI language model, I cannot have personal preferences or opinions.” But it went on to name the top five airlines named to Skytrax’s “World’s Top 100 Airlines” in 2021.

The list wasn’t correct.

The list provided by ChatGPT appears to be Skytrax’s airline ranking from 2019 instead.  

“Where should I eat?”

Specific questions

I had many more questions for ChatGPT, such as:

“How should I spend five days in South Africa?”
“Which chateaux accept visitors in Bordeaux?”
“If I only have one day in London, what should I do?”
“Which rides have the longest lines at Disney World?”

But before I could, my screen said “Access denied” alongside an “error code 1020” message.

This error may be caused by overloaded servers or by exceeding the daily limit, according to the tech website Stealth Optional. Either way, all of my previous chats were inaccessible, a huge negative for travelers in the middle of the planning process.

A new window didn’t fix the problem, but opening one in “incognito mode” did. Once in, I clicked on “Upgrade to Plus,” which showed that the free plan is available when demand is low, but for $20 per month, the “Plus plan” gives access to ChatGPT all the time, faster responses and priority to use new features.

With access again, I quickly asked about wait times on Disney World rides, a subject which I had spoken to luxury travel advisor Jonathan Alder of Jonathan’s Travels about last week. Alder lives close to the park and has lost count of how many times he’s visited, he said. Yet, only one of their answers — Epcot’s “Frozen Ever After” — overlapped.

ChatGPT mentioned that FastPass and Genie+ can reduce wait times at Disney World, which is partly right. The company phased out its “skip the line” virtual queue FastPass program when it introduced Genie+ in the fall of 2021.

The takeaway

ChatGPT is fast, chatty and feels like you’re interacting with a human. I found myself responding with unnecessary pleasantries — “Ok, sure” and “Thank you” — out of habit.

I could see how it could save travelers’ time, especially if they are looking for an overview or are at the early stages of planning.

But information will need to be current, of course — and bugs and error messages, which I faced several times in addition to the “1020” message mentioned above — will need to be fixed.

OpenAI states that the current ChatGPT version “is a free research preview.” It also says the system may “occasionally generate incorrect or misleading information” and that it’s “not intended to give advice.”

When I asked it about its travel planning abilities, it said it “can assist with many aspects of travel planning” but that it may not be able to “provide personalized advice based on your unique circumstances.”

My verdict: Travel agents’ jobs are secure for the time being.

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The future of parking is in New York — and it costs at least $300,000 per space

Hidden deep below some of New York City’s most luxurious apartment buildings is an exclusive world of futuristic parking spaces where high-end vehicles are parked and retrieved by robotic parking systems. 

The high-tech spots are a rare amenity in the Big Apple, and if you want your car to occupy one of these VIP spaces you’ve got to be ready to fork over hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The spots are only accessible to residents of buildings where the apartments will set you back several million, and if you want your car to live there too you’ll need between $300,000 to $595,000 more to score some precious space in the private garage.

CNBC found two buildings in Manhattan offering spots for sale inside a so-called robo-parking garage.

The first is located at 121 East 22nd Street near NYC’s Gramercy Park where a 140-unit condo building developed by Toll Brothers offers 24 automated parking spots.

High above the 22nd St condo’s underground garage is the wraparound terrace of a 5-bedroom duplex apartment that recently sold with a $300K parking spot for $9.45 million.

DroneHub Media

Earlier this month, Lori Alf, a full-time resident of Florida, picked up one of the rare parking spaces for $300,000 when she purchased the building’s priciest unit: a 5-bedroom duplex spanning almost 3,800 square feet.

She told CNBC the package deal, which totaled $9.45 million, was a gift to her children who are now spending more time in New York.

The sun-drenched living area inside Lori Alf’s penthouse unit at 121 E 22nd St.

Toll Brothers City Living

Now when Alf or her kids want to park the family’s Porsche Cayenne in the condo’s garage they pull up to a kiosk where the wave of a small radio frequency ID tag unlocks access to a subterranean car lair where no humans are allowed. 

Pressing a button on the kiosk sends a jolt of life into an empty metal pallet one level below. It slides across a track onto a powerful lift that sends the empty pallet up toward ground-level to meet the Alfs who can then carefully position their car on top of it.

As a vehicle enters the automated system a motion board delivers messages to the driver to assure the vehicle is positioned properly for the parking process to begin.

CNBC

Before their wheels are whisked away, a set of cameras scan the system’s entryway to confirm the car’s trunk and doors are all closed — and that there are no objects or humans left behind that might obstruct the automation. 

When the scanners deliver the “all clear,” the pallet, with car on top, disappears into the floor, pausing briefly as it descends into the basement to spin the vehicle 180 degrees before slotting it into one of the empty spaces.

The system can lift and shuffle two dozen cars across four rows and two levels. 

A car parked on the lower level of the automated parking garage at 121 E 22nd St where prices start at $300K per spot.

CNBC

Retrieving the car is a lot like making a selection from a giant vending machine. Residents swipe their RFID tags once again, and the system delivers their cars in about 2 minutes and 15 seconds.

One of the perks for Alf: She never has to put the car in reverse to exit the building.

“The car is turned for you by the robot,” she told CNBC. “Who doesn’t live for a robot that sets you in the right direction in NYC?”

Pedro Fernandez, a local sales representative for Klaus Parking, the company that sold the German-made parking system to the building’s developer, told CNBC it’s the most automated garage he’s ever installed in Manhattan. 

The company’s top-tier system typically costs between $50,000 and $70,000 per spot installed. Fernandez said developers invest over a million dollars in the intelligent parking infrastructure because it’s super efficient at arranging vehicles and maximizing space.

The view inside the robo-parking machine at 121 E 22nd St reveals a system of pallets and hydraulic lifts that maneuver cars around a two-tier subterranean parking structure.

CNBC

“There was no other way to park 24 cars,” Fernandez said of the garage space under 121 East 22nd Street.

The self-parking system can unlock more spaces per square foot because it doesn’t require the ramps and driving lanes you see in most conventional garages, he said.

​”As crazy as it may sound, $300,000 for a residential parking spot is considered a reasonable price in New York City,” said Senada Adzem, a Florida-based real estate broker at Douglas Elliman, whose team represented Alf in her recent purchase.

Adzem told CNBC spots in the system that include a charging plug for electric vehicles will run you $350,000. And whether it’s electrified or not, every parking spot carries a $150 per-month maintenance fee.

“The overall lack of parking in the city, an ongoing problem with no end in sight, will only escalate such pricing,” said Adzem. 

She believes short supply could turn the seemingly lavish expense into a money-maker for owners, who could eventually resell their spot at a profit.

A car inside the automated parking garage at 520 West 28th where spots start at $450K.

Martien Mulder & Related

Across town, parking spots are even pricier in a building that was once home to popstar Ariana Grande and currently houses rock musician Sting and his film producer wife Trudie Styler.

The price to park at 520 West 28th Street starts at $450,000. 

The $16.5M penthouse at 520 W 28th St unfolds over the 15th & 16th floors, featuring a 2,040 sq ft terrace that wraps around the building’s curvaceous glass facade.

Colin Miller / Related

The luxe residence, designed by famed architect Zaha Hadid and developed by The Related Companies, includes a 4,500-square-foot penthouse currently on the market for $16.5 million. And according to listing agent Julie Pham of Corcoran, a parking space in the building’s garage can cost upwards of $595,000 more per vehicle.

“I’d never seen anything like it before,” Pham said of the unique amenity.

Residents can use an app to communicate with the so-called “secured parking portal” and remotely start the automated retrieval process so the car is ready to go when they are.

The $16.5M penthouse listing includes ten rooms and almost 4,500 sq ft of indoor living space, the asking price does not include parking.

Colin Miller / Related

While Pham wouldn’t reveal the identities of any past or present clients, she did tell CNBC the automated parking was a major draw for one famous resident, who had a security team examine the parking area prior to moving in.

The unnamed celebrity’s representatives OK’d the deal in part because the star could enter and exit the garage in total privacy, Pham said.

 “They liked the idea that you didn’t have to engage with a valet or an attendant, or that anyone couldn’t come in right behind you,” she said.

And during the pandemic, the broker said, residents who wanted to minimize their exposure to Covid-19 loved that they could deposit and retrieve their vehicle without handing over their keys to a valet.

While the automated spots are pricey, they’re not even close to NYC’s most expensive.

In recent years, some condo developers have pushed their asking prices for a basic concrete-and-yellow-stripe parking spot to the $1-million mark, according to Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel, a firm specializing in real estate appraisals and consulting. Still, he said, it’s unlikely a spot with a 9-figure asking price has ever lured in an actual buyer.

“I never found evidence of their actual closings,” he told CNBC.

Miller, who analyzed public records at CNBC’s request, said one of the most expensive parking spots sold in town last year was located at 220 Central Park South, where a parking space went for an impressive $750,000. Miller said, based on public records, it appears connected to an apartment in the building that traded for $16 million.

“It’s really tough to track since most sales are embedded in the sale of a unit,” Miller told CNBC.

And it’s even tougher to track sales of spots in the newer automated systems, because, in many cases the spots are actually licensed to buyers, not deeded and sold like most real estate, according to brokers.

Miller said his best estimate for the going rate of a single NYC parking spot: “I think $300,000 to $400,000 is the sweet spot for new development.”

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