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Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Ryan Vaarsi

18 smells every New Yorker will recognize

We bet you could name these right now.

Will Gleason
Edited by
Will Gleason
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New York is an especially odoriferous place in August with the sun beating down on pretty much every odd thing that makes its way onto the city streets. As we enter the hottest stretch of the year, you’ll most likely encounter a majority of these smells while going about your day. Think of them as accents scents of Eau de NYC.

1. Garbage

The signature scent of many New York intersections. Also found wafting through the air like a light breeze when garbage trucks drive past.

2. Horse Poop

Found in many Central Park thoroughfares.

3. Burnt Street Meat

A combination of soft pretzels, dark meat and a number of unidentifiable sauces burnt to a crisp on a food cart and carried across the sidewalk in an enticing yet somewhat disconcerting cloud.

4. Stinky Subway Car

Could be a dead animal, vomit, a guy sitting in one of the corner seats or BO from the person holding the pole next to you.

5. Laundry

Fabric softener aroma gently emerging up from the basement of an apartment building as you pass. The comfort-smell jackpot, especially in the winter, when it is often accompanied by a warm breeze.

6. Damp Subway Platform

That lovely wet concrete and stagnant water scent that can be found after a rain.

7. Nuts 4 Nuts Carts

The sweet smell of caramelized, sugar-coated peanuts, almonds, cashews, etc. Hard to resist, even if they’re all stuck in together in one big mound.

8. Exhaust

The smell of hot automotive exhaust while cars are backed up at a light or waiting to get into the tunnel.

9. Vent Fumes

The mysterious hot air blowing from vents on the sides of buildings.  

10. Pee 

Dog pee, human pee. Whatever kind it is, the sun baking that urine stench radiates from the sidewalk in a nostril-stinging cloud.

11. Backyard BBQ

The smell of meat grilling on sidewalk/stoop BBQs in Brooklyn. 

12. Fish Markets

Fish and other unidentifiable weird smells as you walk through Chinatown. A no-go zone when you’re hungover

13. The inside of a Taxi

A combination of sweat, the driver's lunch and that musty smell you find in airports.

14. Subway Restaurants

Because you know they pump that weird vaguely sandwich-adjacent smell onto the sidewalks, and there is absolutely no way to escape it.

15. Marijuana

The skunky blast that hits you on a side street where someone’s smoking up their bag of sticky icky.

16. Manhole Steam

Also found coming out of large orange and white cylinders at construction sites and it reeks.

17. Pizza

Smelling the pies costs even less than a dollar.

18. Success

A sweet smell, often fleeting.

By Time Out contributors, edited by Will Gleason.

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