That crazy New York smell
October 31, 2005 9:26 AM   Subscribe

New Yorkers: Did anyone figure out what that smell was?
posted by .kobayashi. to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This guy has an idea.
posted by jamesonandwater at 9:28 AM on October 31, 2005

No, it has not been identified. Big column in yesterday's Daily News about how the city had tested the air and determined there were no harmful chemicals present but no one had been able to pinpoint the source of the smell. A few manufacturers were eliminated as possible sources. Big mystery. My personal feeling is that someone should look at Al Sharpton's schedule for last week, because in the time I spent following him around as a TV cameraman in the mid-90s, he frequently smelled sweet enough to be mistaken for a syrup factory. Big surprise to me...I never would have expected it.
posted by spicynuts at 9:32 AM on October 31, 2005

As an armchair commentator I'm putting my money on impromptu Army PsyOps experiment. For no reason besides it sounds the coolest.
posted by anthill at 9:36 AM on October 31, 2005

Because if you're scared and then you find out there is no problem you feel safer. I vote for Sewer Psyops ..or common industrial pollution under hush hush
posted by elpapacito at 9:38 AM on October 31, 2005

Maybe there was a spill or some sort of issue along the flavor/fragrance corridor in NJ and the aroma wafted into manhattan?
posted by necessitas at 9:47 AM on October 31, 2005

There was plenty of great speculation in kingfisher, his musclebound cat's thread the other day. As you'll see, I came down enthusiastically and joyfully on the PsyOps side.

I used to live near the fragrance corridor, and though you sometimes smell intriguing things, never did I experience a scent capable of wafting across a radius of more than 20 miles. If they'd had some sort of spill of superconcentrated maple-essence, they'd have had to cop to it, I think. Usually the smells are in small pockets along the highway nearby.
posted by Miko at 10:22 AM on October 31, 2005

That's not so far-fetched, anthill. It could have been a test to measure the dispersal characteristics of chemicals released in the subway, for example.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:43 AM on October 31, 2005

It's the sweet, sweet smell of New York's imminent demise.
That would be Random Acts of Senseless Violence. A great read.
posted by rolypolyman at 10:47 AM on October 31, 2005

I work at a DOD laboratory, and often, as i am coming in to work in the morning, the parking lot smells like maple syrup. I have no idea why. I am nowhere near NYC though, but I'll ask around.
posted by quibx at 10:50 AM on October 31, 2005

I'm not normally a bog cloak-and-dagger person, but this one just seems too obvious to ignore. For those who think our government would never do such a thing, there does seem to be some evidence of possibly analogous experiments. One in particular occurred in 1966, when the Army released a bacteria believed to be harmless in the New York subway system, without the knowledge of the public. Although I can find mentions of this on academic web sites, my searches are resulting in a lot of tinfoil-hat sites as well. It does seem to be true, however.


During the 1950s and 1960s, the Army simulated biological attacks in or over US cities, including Minneapolis, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C. In one of the biggest tests, the Army sprayed 'simulant' bacteria into the air from a boat off of San Francisco. They used Serrata marcescens, an organism that is easy to detect. Several civilians became sick; one died. Two important things emerged from these experiments. One was that nearly everyone downwind acquired the bacteria. Secondly, it was learned later that it causes a variety of GI disorders.

Again...I haven't been able to do a thorough evaluation of this stuff. I'm just saying it's plausible and worth considering, in light of the paucity of other explanations.
posted by Miko at 1:37 PM on October 31, 2005

IN case it's unclear (and it is) the graf beginning "During the 1950s and 60s" is a quote from the site linked above it.
posted by Miko at 1:38 PM on October 31, 2005

air quality report
posted by matteo at 1:46 PM on October 31, 2005

Mod note: a few jokey comments removed
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:09 PM on October 31, 2005

Keto-acids, like those found in Maple Syrup Urine Disease, can smell like this.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 2:58 PM on October 31, 2005

[I've been there -- twice]
posted by intermod at 6:51 PM on October 31, 2005

There is some sort of plant, or something in the plants on the coast of California that also smells like maple syrup.

Coincidentally I noticed this on the same day as that post, after friends' dogs had been running around in the area.

So either central park has a lot of whatever-it-is blooming, some kind of pesticide has been sprayed, or we can all expect to come down with "avian flu" sometime soon.
posted by o0o0o at 9:02 PM on October 31, 2005

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