Airbnb vans on NYC Upper East Side spark complaints of urine in streets

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Sketchy vans with duplicate plates rented out as Airbnbs have been circulating on the Upper East Side for months, much to the dismay of residents who complain guests resort to urinating and defecating on the street.

Guests pay at least $96 a night plus fees to sleep on a mattress inside a van parked on the street.

The vehicles, continually moved from one public parking spot to another around one of New York’s wealthiest neighborhoods, have the potential to rake in over $100,000 a year if fully booked.

A white Chevrolet van parked on one block on E. 87th St. for two weeks in June quickly drew concern from neighbors.

“There were four guys coming in and out all day long,” a super who works on the block said. “I’m wondering why in this neighborhood, why?”

The interior of a white Chevy van with New York license plate KMG 9216 parked on E. 81st St. near Second Ave. July 7.
The interior of a white Chevy van with New York license plate KMG 9216 parked on E. 81st St. near Second Ave. July 7.

A constant flow of different guests staying for a few days at a time followed, with some relieving themselves on the street, neighbors said.

“Where are they going to do it?” said the super, who asked that his name not be used. “They don’t care. They go between the cars or on the building stairs across the street.”

An Airbnb spokesperson said it is against policy for hosts to rent out space on public property.

The vans are rented out by Magda Agata, a name used by Magdalena Kulisz, an entrepreneur and co-founder of Miss Immigrant USA, a networking group that holds a “community activity pageant” and lists the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, and the New York City Sheriff among its “patrons and sponsors.”

Kulisz, who describes herself as a “searching soul” on Facebook, is also a social media consultant, a marketer, and the inventor of a scarf/bag combo she calls the AmphiBag. She has been photographed hobnobbing with Mayor Adams and Gov. Hochul.

Three separate Airbnb listings for the Upper East Side vans with prices ranging from $124 to $147.
Three separate Airbnb listings for the Upper East Side vans with prices ranging from $124 to $147.

“All the car are legally registered and everyone can rent it not only from Airbnb,” Kulisz emailed the Daily News when reached for comment. “You can book it through other platforms even you can just call me or refer your friends.”

The super called 311 and then police about the van on E. 87th St. After his complaints, the van moved a few hundred feet but stayed on the block, he said.

“The guys in the van showed the cops the receipts on their phone for Airbnb,” the super explained.

The van had a for sale sign so the concerned super said he called the number claiming to be interested in buying it.

“We can rent it, we can sell it, we can fit a queen size bed inside,” the man who picked up told the super.

The super revealed he worked on the block and said he had concerns about the van.

The man who took the call got angry and cursed at the super before hanging up. The for sale sign soon disappeared from the van’s window.

One of three listings on Airbnb for vans available to rent by the night on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, with Magda Agata as host.
One of three listings on Airbnb for vans available to rent by the night on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, with Magda Agata as host.

“Who are you, the FBI?” a man earlier spotted servicing the engine of one of the vans with Kulisz said when approached by The News this month. “It’s a good business opportunity.”

Three Upper East Side listings have appeared on Airbnb with reviews going back to February and titles including “Lovely rv place,” “NYC Van Experience” and “The NYC RV.” All pictured the same vehicle, with a bed, a small sink and a toilet placed between the two car seats. A sign taped to the lid of the toilet reads “For Emergency USE only please! Please avoid doing #2 here!”

Kulisz, designated by Airbnb as a “superhost” claims in her postings the vans have a “portable AC” but said there was no Wi-Fi, hot water or shower, but offered an alternative: “Shower in our home, see picture, just text and come.”

The listings assured vacationers that everything was on the up and up. “Our property is legally parked and insured,” read the ads.

She cautions guests against leaving less than five stars, noting anything less than that is considered a negative reviews.

A blue Chevy van with the New York license plate KMG 9216 on E. 78th St. near Park Ave. on July 7. At right, a white Chevy van with the same plate on E. 81st St. near Second Ave. on the same day.
A blue Chevy van with the New York license plate KMG 9216 on E. 78th St. near Park Ave. on July 7. At right, a white Chevy van with the same plate on E. 81st St. near Second Ave. on the same day.

Most reviews have been positive but not all guests heeded her warning.

“The place is way too expensive for what it is,” carped one renter named Virgile. “Just have in mind *it’s a mattress in a van in the street*. No restroom (a toilet you cannot use) and it was complicated to come take a shower to the host place.”

It’s not the first time New York vans have appeared on the controversial rental site. In 2015, a host named Jonathan offered vans in Long Island City with views of landmarks. At $22 a night, they went for a fraction of the cost of the Upper East Side fleet.

Two people working on a van with New York license plate KMG 9216 in the Upper East Side.
Two people working on a van with New York license plate KMG 9216 in the Upper East Side.

In 2021, seven vans parked in the East Village and Chelsea being used as Airbnbs were seized by the city after an investigation partly sparked by a viral YouTube video made by a guest who paid $97 to stay the night.

In December the city passed a law requiring all Airbnb hosts to register their units with the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement. Airbnb is now suing New York, saying the rules are too onerous for hosts to follow and the July deadline to register has been pushed to September.

“I’m not an attorney but it’s not an apartment so I don’t think I need to register it with the city,” Kulisz told the Daily News via email. “But I’ll love to know to make it better.”

Magdalena Kulisz, the co-founder of Miss Immigrant USA, with Mayor Adams.
Magdalena Kulisz, the co-founder of Miss Immigrant USA, with Mayor Adams.

For $147, the Daily News was later able to rent one of the street-side Shangri-Las for a night. Check-in consisted of simply opening the van’s unlocked door and finding a key on top of a hand towel.

A navy Chevy Express van was cramped and hot with no ventilation. The license plate ended in 9216, while several blocks away a white Chevy Express simultaneously bore identical license plates. The registration stickers on both vans had the same Vehicle Identification Number, for a Chevy Suburban. Paperwork in the white van’s windshield stated the vehicle was blue.

Two tickets have been issued to the license plate number by the city. On May 31, one was written for a missing registration sticker on a white Chevy van. The other, from June 4, was for a blue Chevy Suburban standing at a bus stop.

“The smell of urine and feces,” said Stacey, 39, a resident of E. 87th St., when asked what made her notice the presence of the white van on the Upper East Side.

The interior of a white Chevy van with New York license plate KMG 9216 on E. 81st St. near Second Ave. on July 7.
The interior of a white Chevy van with New York license plate KMG 9216 on E. 81st St. near Second Ave. on July 7.

A neighbor suggested Stacey call Councilwoman Julie Menin, and a staffer there asked if she was talking about a van on E. 89th St. or another further down E. 87th St.

“I said no — so you’re basically telling me there are multiple of these,” said Stacey. “That’s nuts, right?”

“A local resident reported concerns about a potential illegal short-term rental out of a motor vehicle,” said Anna Correa, a spokeswoman for Council Member Julie Menin. “We have contacted the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement (OSE) and the Department of Transportation to investigate this matter further.”

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