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The New York Post: NYC police seize illegal vans touted on Airbnb as cheap places to ‘glamp’

Now that’s curbing crime!

Cops this week seized seven illegally documented vans that have been used for at least two years as cut-rate Airbnb
ABNB,
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rentals, authorities said.

In a series of since-removed posts on the app, the vans were touted as a very down to Earth way for tourists to experience the mean streets of the Big Apple — by practically sleeping on them for under $100 a night.

“Glamp in a spacious camper Van in NYC!” gushed one ad boasting of a “private room” said to accommodate up to three people.

But an eagle-eyed traffic enforcement agent noticed something sketchy about the vehicles — five of which were parked in the East Village — whose registration and NJ plates were long expired, some going as far back as 2000, sources said.

A joint investigation by the city Sheriff’s office and the NYPD Document Fraud Unit discovered an “operation of alleged fraudulent and illegally registered vehicles being used as Airbnb rentals on various streets in Manhattan,” Sheriff Joseph Fucito told The Post Saturday.

The Sheriff impounded the cars on Thursday and Friday, authorities said.

Uptin Saiidi stayed in this NYC street camper van Airbnb and documented it on his YouTube channel. The vans have since been confiscated by the sheriff’s department.

Uptin/YouTube

Operation Room Service impounded seven vans for a variety of alleged offenses which prohibited their operation or parking on a public street.

NY Sheriff’s Office

“Vehicles could be removed from the street because they were mismatched and expired registrations,” a law enforcement source added.

One of the seized vans — a red, 1999 Ford Econline parked on East 2nd Street — offered California-based journalist/video creator Uptin Saiidi, a room with a view — not to mention four wheels and an exhaust pipe.

Saiidi, who made a YouTube video out of his Aug. 4 stay, said he was initially seduced by the ad, which offered him the #VanLife experience for just $97.

Sleeping overnight in a van is legal, according to the city’s Department of Transportation.

Uptin/YouTube

He said a key — which cannot start the engine — was left for him in a lockbox at the back of the van.

But he quickly noticed a red flag: “When I arrived there was a parking ticket, because it was there on Tuesday, which was street cleaning. I stayed there on a Wednesday,” he noted.

In a series of since-removed posts on Airbnb, the vans were touted as a very down-to-Earth for tourists to experience the mean streets of the Big Apple.

Airbnb

Another big concern, he admitted, was finding his own accommodations to relieve himself, since the ad warned:  “Restrooms, shower and lockers are available at a public pool nearby.”

“The worst thing was the anxiety of where to pee when you gotta go. I went into the van at 10 p.m. and then woke up at 7 a.m.” he said, adding that he found relief at a nearby Equinox.

Sleeping was another issue, he continued.

“What is interesting was how awful I slept because you have people walking right next to you. You have people literally outside walking and talking and cars trying to parallel park next to you all-night long,” said Saiidi, describing his stay in the “smelly” van  as “awful.”

When reached for comment, Airbnb directed the Post to its settlement agreement with New York City’s Office of Special Enforcement that requires the platform to share renter and unit information with the city. The company was not cited by authorities, the sources said.

The company has a verified checkmark next to a picture of the account of the mysterious “Nancy,” who collected several  positive reviews this month from users gushing about their ”Superfun! Adventure,” or kvelling that the van was a “Perfect spot to stay for a couple!”

In her profile on the app, Nancy wrote:  “Love to travel and explore the world. I’m a fan of tiny and unique homes. Hoping to share a part of van life experience with all travelers! I have lived in NYC all my life so I can recommend you the best places to see, eat and go!”

It was unclear whether Nancy owned any or all of the vans and authorities would not comment on their ownership.

Sleeping overnight in a van is legal, according to the city’s Department of Transportation — provided it’s not parked in the same spot for 24 hours in restricted areas.

When parking is not otherwise restricted, no person shall park any vehicle in any area, including a residential area, in excess of seven consecutive days, the agency’s rules note. Fines typically start at $115, the NYPD has said.

The Sheriff’s office did not comment further except to say the “investigation in this matter is ongoing.”

A version of this report appears at NYPost.com.

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