Ghost car: A post captures a habitual criminal taking off license plates to avoid getting citations or towed

In a crafty maneuver to dodge parking fines on the Upper East Side, a man has been exploiting a loophole in the system by removing his license plates. The New York Post observed this individual, driving a blue Honda Odyssey, park on East 85th Street between York and First Avenues. In a swift action that raised eyebrows, he detached the Connecticut license plate from the rear of his vehicle and concealed it in a plastic bag before casually entering an apartment building at 424 E. 85th Street, where he is employed as a superintendent.

This ploy, however, is not a one-off incident. Local residents report that this particular individual has been repeating this act for several months. His goal is clear: to evade parking tickets and the possibility of his car being towed. This tactic has labeled him a slippery character in the neighborhood, adept at skirting the rules.

Residents, frustrated by his recurrent parking violations, have repeatedly called the police. However, the authorities face a challenge: they are unable to tow vehicles without license plates — these so-called “ghost cars” — unless they are first marked for removal by the city’s Sanitation Department. To the neighbors’ dismay, each time the Sanitation Department is alerted, the car disappears before any action can be taken.

After witnessing the driver remove his plates, a Post reporter confronted him. He declined to reveal his name and offered a convoluted justification for his actions. Citing a recent motorcycle accident that injured his pinky finger and led to lost work, he claimed financial constraints prevented him from paying $680 in outstanding parking tickets. “I can’t pay all of that right now,” he said. “I gotta eat! I got my wife. I don’t have the money right now.” He brazenly asserted that it was nobody’s business if he parked illegally.

He insisted that his illicit parking scheme had only been in effect for three weeks. However, neighbors claim it has been ongoing since the summer. They express particular concern about his habit of parking in front of fire hydrants, an offense that carries a $115 fine itself. Tim, a 37-year-old building manager on the block, pointed out the potential hazard this posed, especially in emergencies where firefighters need immediate access to the hydrant.

Another frustrated neighbor reported numerous attempts to address the situation through 311 reports, accusing the city of enabling this illicit parking scheme by not seizing the car. The community’s calls for action include suggestions to boot or tow the vehicle.

Councilwoman Julie Menin, representing the neighborhood, acknowledged receiving complaints about the “ghost car.” She has called for investigations by both the NYPD and the Sanitation Department. Menin emphasized that no one is above the law, especially when it comes to personal convenience in parking.

Under city regulations, cars without plates valued at less than $1250 can be towed by the Sanitation Department. However, the value of the Honda Odyssey exceeds this threshold, transferring the responsibility to the NYPD.

Sanitation Department spokesman Joshua Goodman assured that joint operations with the NYPD are underway to address the issue of ghost cars. He highlighted the administration’s commitment to removing derelict and abandoned vehicles from the streets, noting a significant increase in such removals this year compared to 2022.