Broome Street Stench Mystery Finally Uncovered


New York Magazine goes on an investigative mission to determine what makes Broome Street between Allen and Eldridge stink so goddamn bad. Amid an array of sensory descriptiveness — it smells like “high meat and old squeegees,” or “flushed-out catacombs,” or cabbage, then pee, “like you’ve got your face in the urinal,” Molly Young takes Chandler Burr, former perfume critic and curator of the Department of Olfactory Art at the Museum of Arts and Design, on a morning walk through the street, and he can’t identify a source, though he does pick out smells like wet, live dog — and focuses on a warehouse at 284 Broome as the source of the problem. Then she brings odor expert Avery Gilbert to the street to try.

Things get magical:

He directed my attention to a gutter with a sock floating in it and diagnosed standing water as the area’s first problem. “It’s a bacterial broth,” he said. “There’s a nice oily sheen to this one. Smells like rotten vegetables.” The air was a mesh of flies. At 284 Broome, the warehouse was doing a slow Saturday business, and as we approached the building, Gilbert replicated Burr’s body language. “Ay-yi-yi,” he said. “Wow. Oh, boy. Oh, boy.”

Last week, we pointed out that smells in the city bring us a certain sick pleasure, even when they do reek to high heaven. And we know exactly what Young is talking about here — we can almost feel it in our noses, sharp and putrid, even while sitting here safely in our non-stinky offices.

So, what IS that smell? Not to ruin it for you, but at the end of the day, it turns out to be chicken, prepared, sitting in boxes, in the heat. Which is gross, but not as gross as the smell itself, which in a way is almost anticlimactic. There seem to be two lessons here: 1. Don’t try to answer questions you don’t really want to know the answers to, and 2. Don’t go to Broome Street between Allen and Eldridge on a hot summer day.

You could also stop eating chicken, but now you’re just being dramatic.

The Smelliest Block in New York [NYM]