New York stinks of smoke today: Here are the five worst (and best!) smells ever to overtake NYC

Nothing unites New Yorkers quite like a big cloud of funk. Especially a big cloud of funk from New Jersey.

Stop hey, what’s that…smell? No, you’re not having a stroke. That burning odor you encountered this morning is just New Jersey’s way of spreading the (really stinky) love. And it’s hardly the first—or we guess last—overwhelming odor to grace the city. Here, a roundup of NYC’s most noxious moments.


Today’s airborne toxic event comes care of a Sunday brush fire in Jersey’s Wharton State Forest that was contained (but still burning) at press time. The smoky-smelling haze initially created confusion for commuters: People getting on the train in Downtown Brooklyn convinced themselves they were imagining things, only to encounter the same toastiness when they popped up post-commute in midtown, even though the blaze was 90 miles away. Officials say the smoky goodness could last another 12 hours but that—thankfully—homes and buildings are out of danger. (No word on how the poor beavers and otters in the forest are faring.)
Smells like…a cozy winter weekend in the Catskills.

Maple Syrup

New York City’s most notorious—and delightful!—olfactory occurrence was the Maple Syrup Event of 2005. (It even inspired a story line on 30 Rock.) Once New Yorkers got over their skepticism (“Am I the only one who smells pancakes right now, or am I having a psychotic break?”), things got briefly dark: Worry over chemical warfare trumped the delight and comfort the sweet smell brought, but fears were quickly extinguished. Turned out the culprit was the benign fenugreek seed, which is used to produce fragrances, emanating from a factory in (where else?) Jersey. The smell wafted in again in 2006 and then again in 2009, giving city dwellers faint hope that the delightful weekendy tang will someday be with us anew.
Smells likelazy Sunday.


Not to slut-shame our great city, but she could do with a whore’s bath every now and again. Blame the Bradford Pears, a type of tree responsible for (get ready) the city smelling like a mixture of semen and rotting fish last spring. The pretty white blossoms emit a far less pretty smell (unless you’re into that sort of thing—no judgment).  After our bone-chilling winter, the smell of jizz would be a small price to pay for warm weather—and bring a whole new meaning to the expression “spring is in the air.”
Smells likeyour walk of shame.


When the fresh smell of citrus blanketed Astoria in 2010, it wasn’t because New York had suddenly sprung orange groves. Quite the contrary: The Department of Environmental Protection had used a fragrant chemical spray to conceal (or try to, anyway) the stench emanating from a waste plant with a malfunctioning blower (that’s what she said). The faux smell of orange instead of the real smell of poo-poo? Yes, please. Good thinking, DEP.
Smells like…one of those taxi-cab air fresheners.


This probably seems like we’re stating the obvious, but sometimes the subways smell like diapers. And turns out, there’s a reason for it (and no, the reason is not actual diapers): Biodegradable oils used to lubricate the hydraulic lifts in certain stations (Union Square, Borough Hall) degrade in high heat and emit a less-than-pleasant aroma. Though the transit authority now mainly uses synthetic oils (which should, in theory, smell better), people still complain about the doody-tastic smell of some of their transpo hubs. The silver lining? We think it’s the best method of birth control imaginable: Can’t stand the smell of your subway station? Then you’re clearly not ready for kids! (We may be reaching.)
Smells like…poop. It just smells like poop.

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Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)

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