Thursday, November 03, 2005

Manhattan's Wafting Mystery

Brian

Last week, New Yorkers were treated to an invisible cloud of . . . something that smelled good:
Arturo Padilla walked through it and declared that it was awesome.

"It's like maple syrup. With Eggos. Or pancakes," he said. "It's pleasant."

The odor had followed Mr. Padilla and his friend along their walk in Lower Manhattan, from a dormitory on Fulton Street, to Pace University on Spruce Street, and back down again, to where they stood now, near a Dunkin' Donuts. Maybe it was from there, he said. But it wasn't.
. . . .
There were conflicting accounts as to its nature. A police officer who had thrown out her French vanilla coffee earlier compared it to that. Two diplomats from the Netherlands disagreed, politely. Rieneke Buisman said it smelled like roasted peanuts. Her friend Joris Geeven said it reminded him of a Dutch cake called peperkoek, though he could not describe that smell.

Link (NY Times registration required, but check out BugMeNot). The next day, word--and the smell--had spread:
"It seems to be moving around, and everybody's checking to make sure it's nothing dangerous," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday at a Chinatown news conference.
. . . .
"Unfortunately, IHOP cannot take credit for the maple syrup smell that has been reported over New York City," said Patrick Lenow, a spokesman for IHOP Corp. in Glendale, Calif.

Around town, residents who at first had doubted their awareness of the sweet smell were relieved to have their olfactory fortitude confirmed.

"Tell the city I want a lot of butter delivered to the neighborhood," said attorney Stephanie Carvlin, who first detected a pancake odor as she walked to dinner in TriBeCa Thursday night.

Link. The smell, it would seem, has gone for now, but, like a fart in a crowded elevator, the mystery of its origins lingers:
As for what that might be, [University of New Hampshire forester Sumner] Dole guessed that it must be the fumes from something sugary—molasses, caramel—which seemed sensible enough, on the eve of Halloween.“What you need to think about is something from a commercial industrial process,” he said. It so happened that the people at the city’s Office of Emergency Management, in concert with the Police Department, the Fire Department, the Coast Guard, the Department of Environmental Protection, and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, were thinking the same thing. (Testing had ruled out an airborne toxic event; there was nothing unusual in the air, such as, say, benzoic acid, which apparently can give off a maple-syrup odor.) By late Friday morning, according to Jarrod Bernstein, an O.E.M. spokesman, officials were sampling the air at a chocolate factory in downtown Manhattan: Jacques Torres Chocolate Haven, on Hudson Street. “It’s just not us. I’m so sorry,” Kris Kruid, a Chocolate Haven representative, said. “We’re not doing anything smelly. Of any kind.” Sure enough, by midafternoon the O.E.M. had cleared Chocolate Haven and was once again flummoxed.

Link. Personally? I think it's the dastardly work of some ridiculous comic-book villain.

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Photo credits: Citycorp skyglow 1 by adamgreenfield, acquired via Creative Commons license.