On a quiet street in Manhattan's Greenwich Village, there sits a dented, scraped and graffiti-covered Chevrolet Corsica, filled from floor to ceiling with trash. How did this car get into this state? Is it some hoarder's final refuge? How does it survive in such a fashionable Manhattan neighborhood?
This isn't the first time we've seen Manhattanites with strangely-filled cars. Last year we brought you the story of the mysterious book-filled car on the phallically-shaped borough's tony Upper West Side. Now we've found, thanks to a tweet from business reporter Ken Sweet, another car that's just as weird.
The Chevy is filled mostly with newspapers, some from a few weeks ago, some at least two years old. There are cups, bottles, napkins, wrappers, utensils, cords, rubber bands, umbrellas, bags, and a backscratcher filling the car from the carpets to the headliner; from the dashboard to the parcel shelf. The back windshield is almost completely obscured. There is hardly any room for the driver and none for any passengers. The whole rear of the car sags down under the weight of the junk.
The outside of the car is equally trashed; the paint has chipped off of the hood, both door mirrors have been replaced, the sides and trunk have been repeatedly covered in graffiti, and the whole roof has been bashed in.
Everyone passing by paused to stare at the car while I took pictures yesterday. Almost none of them had anything negative to say about it parking in their neighborhood. An older woman joked, "It's cheaper than owning an apartment."
Construction workers came from around the corner to talk about how they see the owner every morning. He is a big, fat man. He moves the car for street cleaning and regularly drives out of the neighborhood, as well. He drives with all of the junk still in the car, only moving the papers that sit in the driver's seat. One construction worker thought that the owner worked on one of the buildings on the street.
Everyone agreed the car had never been ticketed, and everyone was still happy about it. "Don't take pictures of my car," one guy (obviously not the owner) said, laughing.
A woman pushing a stroller stopped to say that the car was famous in the neighborhood. Everybody knew the car, but no one knew the owner. She said that one resident who lives across the street from where the Chevy parks got so curious that he once followed the man in his own car to see where he goes and what he does.
According to this woman, the owner works nights as a building superintendant in another neighborhood. She described his routine. Every morning he comes back from work and has breakfast in his car and reads the paper. He sleeps during the day, but not in the car. This would explain why the car is filled with newspapers and what could be the remnants of breakfast: coffee cups, napkins, plastic utensils.
The car's relationship with its neighborhood is unclear. Who covered the car in graffiti? How did the roof get dented? Any angry local resident could have caused this damage. One young man who walked past the car took one look and said, "Don't you just want to burn it to the ground?"
The neighborhood's interest in the car isn't just a function of how it's filled with junk. It has more to do with the specifics of keeping a car in Manhattan, and Greenwich Village in particular.
Parking in Manhattan, this 1996 Chevy is always at the edge of the sidewalk, and everything inside is in view to pedestrians. Residents returning to their homes see it, drunks walking from bar to bar see it. People start to interact with it.
They talk about it. They joke about it. They tag it. They scratch it. They dent it.
Even with its charming 19th-century row-houses and tree-lined streets, Greenwich Village welcomes the Corsica. If it parked in the uptight Upper West or Upper East Side, it would be towed regularly, just like the Honda Civic bookmobile at 68th and Columbus Avenue. The Village also has plenty of strict residents, but it also has more sentimental old baby boomers and sympathetic college grads.
The Corsica falls between the open-hearted and closed-minded sides of the neighborhood. It helps that no one really knows who this man is, or what to make of his car.
The owner of the car could be an obsessive hoarder, or just a man who's very, very messy about his morning routine. Driving everyday and collecting no tickets, it seems like the owner is making things work. With all of the trash inside, however, he looks like someone with serious hoarding problems.
No one is quite sure if the car is a success story, or part of a tragic failure. The whole neighborhood is tied together by this uncertainty, and the mystery of the owner himself.
We hope that the owner is healthy, and we salute his ability to keep this old Chevy running in spite of draconian New York parking policies and the mounting piles of trash that give the car its minor celebrity status.
That said, it's just another oddity we've found here on New York's strange city streets.
Photo Credit: Raphael Orlove/Jalopnik