Common senses

Think New York stinks like poo? Or it's just too damn loud? Two new walking tours want your take.

New Yorkers use words like vile, rancid and just fucking wrong to describe the sounds and smells of the city. And while iPods and mouth-breathing are nigh essential to urban survival, two new tours encourage us to think twice about the aural and olfactory landscape.

The New York Soundwalking Experience, led by composer and multi-instrumentalist Katie Down, takes attuned listeners on an ears-out romp across the  Upper East Side.

Similarly, the Smelling Committee tour—modeled after the original hosted in Williamsburg in 1891 and presented in conjunction with this weekend’s Art Under the Bridge Festival in Dumbo—asks people to think with their noses. Throughout the festival, participants can call in for a “sniff-along” audio guide, download a podcast, and submit their own “found smells” via text message  to The results will be compiled in an online geo-tagged odor data bank, which will be accessible after the festival.

The New York Soundwalking Experience meets Sun 30. For more info, go to Smelling Committee tours run Thu 28–Sun 30. Look for signs posted in the streets and call 212-372-7595 with a location number to listen. For more info, go to

To get things going, TONY contributes its own sniff-’n-listen take on Manhattan. Mmm, rotten fish.

Central Park

Dog tags jingle, bike wheels zip, and sneakers crunch on gravel. Shakespeare Garden is a quiet zone and smells like jasmine.

Port Authority Bus Terminal

The inside stench of cat piss, human feces and armpits pains the nose. A man preaches “Believe in Jesus or burn in hell!”

Hudson River Park

Where’s that strange odor coming from? When in doubt, look at Jersey and point.

Little Italy

Eros croons from an outdoor speaker while waiters shout “Mangia! Mangia!” and silverware clinks. The scent of sausage and peppers, cigars and fried dough hangs in the air.


Peking duck and pungent durian mingle with the delicate rot of sun-baked squid. An erhucompetes with the yips of a battery-operated toy dog.

East River Park

The echoing bounce of a basketball against pavement is periodically drowned out by the rattling of the trains overhead.

South Street Seaport

Crowds cheer at a juggling clown. Steel anchors clang, seagulls beg, and the pier smells of wet wood, oil, French fries and shellfish.

Ground Zero

Helicopters whop-whop-whopoverhead, cameras click, police whistles tweet, vendors hustle WTC images, and cranes creak on-site.