PDA

View Full Version : Subway Smells



Kris
September 16th, 2003, 11:29 AM
September 16, 2003

TUNNEL VISION

Putting the Rank in Subway Rankings

By RANDY KENNEDY

With the hot weather drawing to a close, it is finally time to reveal the results of this column's long-awaited survey of summer subway smells.

In truth, the data pool for this survey is much larger than a single summer's outstanding odors. The analysis of subterranean stink has been under way, in a largely unscientific manner, ever since this columnist moved to New York City and inhaled his first lungful of funky subway air 12 years ago. So the following rankings and reviews compiled with help from the experienced noses of several fellow riders should be considered a major addition to the literature in the field.

(Before proceeding, it should be noted that this survey does not touch on the related subject of smells inside subway cars, which tend to be much more ephemeral and easy to pinpoint. A rider recently wrote of tracing a particularly foul odor to the man seated next to her, who smelled "like he just got back from a weeklong deep-sea fishing trip.")

Our survey begins with the honorable mention for smelliest subway station: the 14th Street station on the F line. If you are someone who grew up in a swamp, this station will probably make you think of home.

While it does not exhibit the more pungent or alarming odors that will be described later, this station has long been known for a distinctive bouquet somewhere between old peat moss and gym socks stewed in potato peels, depending on the temperature. "To me it smells like dirty water," said Luz Santos, waiting there the other day. "Very dirty water. Or maybe watery dirt."

Now to the main rankings, all in Manhattan. Third prize for most gamy station goes to Canal Street on the Q and W line, the source of whose stink does not appear to be as straightforward as a water leak. One rider, writing on the Web site www.straphangers.org , surmised that the odor might emanate from the fishmongers and grocers on the streets above. They sometimes stack their expired squid and bok choy atop the subway air vents near the curb, where it can broil in the sun until the garbage trucks arrive at night.

Lately, it seems that transit workers have given up trying to eliminate the aroma and have simply tried to mask it with an air freshener that smells like rancid oranges and makes your eyes water. Taken together as a wine writer might note these scents have a surprisingly long and powerful finish.

Compared to the No. 7 station at Times Square, however, Canal Street could be considered the subway's aromatherapy spa.

The No. 7 station ranks second even after the cleanup last year resulting from an incident in which the contents of a urinal in an employees' locker room were apparently spilling onto the tracks. One afternoon last week, however, the fetid breeze stirred by arriving trains still carried an unmistakable whiff of urinal and ancient perspiration, laced with hints of burnt tire and litter box.

Craig Fabian, 17, of West Harlem, drew in a breath and said that he did not find it nearly as objectionable as he sometimes did. His theory is that, because the station is so deep, the collective odors of overheated passengers somehow pool there, making it much worse during the rush hours.

"It smells funkier in the morning," he said, in a voice of experience beyond his age. "Everybody gets down here. And all that combining together it makes it smell worse."

The first prize, finally, goes to a station that smells so bad, in winter and summer alike, that many of its users say that the term "worse" becomes almost meaningless: the Second Avenue station on the F line. It has been described, kindly, as being redolent of a circus. Max Finneran, 26, said the other day that it smelled like a livestock show. He reconsidered this and said that it was actually more like "raw sewage."

William Robertson, a car cleaner who sat on a cardboard box waiting for the next train to come in, explained that the source of the odor came from the First Avenue end of the station, where tracks unused by trains have, for decades, been used as a makeshift camp by countless homeless people.

Half an hour after he explained this, a man and a woman, engaged in a kind of staggering argument, descended the stairs from the street and immediately made a beeline for the end of the platform.

"My wife and me," the man said, "we drank a lot of beer, mister." He rocked on his heels and added, "I've got kidney problems, man."

With this, he and the woman crawled down onto the tracks, where the man stood and relieved himself. As soon as he was finished, he and the woman calmly walked along the tracks back into the station, looked around and ducked down into a three-foot-square opening beneath the platform, disappearing as completely as Alice into the rabbit hole.

Mr. Robertson later shook his head and said: "There's no ambiguity about it. This place stinks."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

MagnumPI
April 21st, 2005, 07:06 PM
One year later....

Subway Cleanliness Slips in 2004, Group Says

By SEWELL CHAN (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=SEWELL CHAN&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=SEWELL CHAN&inline=nyt-per)
http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/misc/spacer.gif
Published: April 21, 2005
NEW YORK TIMES


http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/dropcap/t.gifhe proportion of New York City subway cars that are dingy, sticky, smelly or heavily soiled rose last year over 2003, an advocacy group that periodically inspects subway conditions reported today.

The study, by the Straphangers Campaign, described 61 percent of subway cars as dirt-free or generally clean in 2004, compared with a 66 percent favorable rating in 2003. The trend had been toward improvement in the last few years, with 32 percent rated dirt-free or generally clean in 1999, 47 percent in 2000, and 59 percent in 2002. (The group did not do a study in 2001, because of the Sept. 11 terror attack.)

In the most recent study, the Nos. 1 and 9 were the dirtiest lines, with 14 percent of cars rated as clean. Most cars were also found to be dirty on the E, M, V and B. The cleanest line was the N, with 86 percent of its cars rated as clean, followed by the A and D.

New York City Transit operates a fleet of 6,152 subway cars, and it is impossible to say how many are dirty at any one time. The advocacy group based its findings on spot checks of 2,200 subway cars 100 on each of 22 subway lines between Sept. 19 and Dec. 27 of last year.

The 37 trained surveyors rated each car they inspected on a scale of 1 to 4, with 1 representing a dirt-free car; 2, a generally clean car; 3, a dingy floor or one or two "sticky dry spots"; and 4, a heavily soiled car, with any opened or spilled food, rolling bottles, sticky wet spots or malodorous conditions.

New York City Transit said that its own Passenger Environment Survey, conducted twice a year, "also noted an increase in the number of cars with soiled floors and seats, though not as pronounced." According to that survey, the proportion of clean cars dropped to 81 percent in the second half of 2004 from 83 percent a year earlier.

"We are not pleased with the cleanliness figures generated either by the Straphangers or our own internal audit," the agency's president, Lawrence G. Reuter, said in a statement. "However, while we are focusing on more intensive cleaning efforts throughout the system, I would also ask our riders to help us keep the system clean by disposing of their trash in the proper receptacles."

The transit agency rated cleanliness at terminals, where the cars are cleaned, while the Straphangers surveyed cars during their runs.

The Nos. 1 and 9 lines, which have a combined weekday ridership of 510,000, are a particular challenge because they can only be cleaned at their northern terminus in the Bronx, the agency said. The configuration of the South Ferry station, which is scheduled to be rebuilt, does not permit car cleaning.

The Straphangers noted that the agency had reduced car-cleaning expenses by a total of $17.3 million in 2003 and 2004 and is scheduled to save $2.5 million this year by not filling vacancies in car-cleaning positions. The transit agency, however, said those savings came through efficiency measures and did not result in a decrease in cleaning.

The Straphangers Campaign is part of the New York Public Interest Research Group, which advocates consumer, environmental and government reforms. Its study was financed by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which seeks to distribute information about the effectiveness of government programs.

Rem 311 JHF
June 16th, 2005, 01:34 PM
HOT Weather!!,Remember how HOT This Station Used to be Some Years ago and Then Someone Came up w. The Solution of Putting Some Type of BLOWER FANS In The Stations on The Ceilings Right Next to Where you Come Down to all of The Steps at!!.I'll say 1 Thing for Sure,When you Wait for a Train Now at That Station Now,Damn!!,Does It Feel so Good too,Doesn't It?!

Clarknt67
June 16th, 2005, 03:30 PM
HOT Weather!!,Remember how HOT This Station Used to be Some Years ago and Then Someone Came up w. The Solution of Putting Some Type of BLOWER FANS In The Stations on The Ceilings Right Next to Where you Come Down to all of The Steps at!!.I'll say 1 Thing for Sure,When you Wait for a Train Now at That Station Now,Damn!!,Does It Feel so Good too,Doesn't It?!


I think it's even more than blowers, I think those are air conditioners on the GCS platform. Ordinarily, I think luxuries like that are a stupid waste of $$$. But GCS platforms really needed those. It was ungodly hot there before they put them in. I dress biz casual & my shirt would be drenched from 5 minutes of waiting for the 4. I can't imagine what it was like in a full suit.

Ninjahedge
June 22nd, 2005, 09:03 AM
I don't think it is so much the MTA not cleaning the stations that are in the poorest neighborhoods more than it is the fact that you are less likely to get "human waste" at the stations in the "more affluent" areas.


Combine that with the fact thatthe people assigned to cleaning up all this garbage are less likely to be enthusiastic about going into piss-land to clean up wrappers, bottles and other garbage that the residents of the area feel are not their own responsibility to clean up after.

It may be partially psycological in that these people that are considered by most to be on the lowest rungs of the social ladder are trying to confirm that no matter how low they are, there is still someone cleaning up THEIR garbage, and therefore they are not THE lowest.


Sad, really.

ablarc
June 22nd, 2005, 09:24 AM
I don't think it is so much the MTA not cleaning the stations that are in the poorest neighborhoods more than it is the fact that you are less likely to get "human waste" at the stations in the "more affluent" areas.
Ninjahedge, that's exactly what I was thinking when I read the article. People feel compelled to blame a conspiracy of the wealthy for every ill of the poor-- or else profess to be mystified. Haven't these people lived and observed, or are they really under the culture's pressure to be like Candide in Wonderland?

Is this disingenuous or ingenuous? Either way, it's time people adopted a more realistic stance; we're in danger of mistaking our myths for reality.

Schadenfrau
June 22nd, 2005, 11:16 AM
I would actually disagree with the idea the human waste abounds at subway stations in more poverty-stricken areas. I think the filthiest station I see is 59th and Lexington, which is definitely not in a poor area.

I'm guessing that 59th and Lex sees so much garbage because of the sheer number of people passing through. At the same time, 59th and Lex has a very high number of MTA employees working overtime to catch up with the garbage. Subway stations in poor areas see much less traffic, and thus, much less attention.

Ninjahedge
June 22nd, 2005, 11:59 AM
Shade, I was referring to human excriment, not necessarily food wrappers.

In my association of waste and uncleanliness to certain stations as a ration of mess to people using the station, it seems lik ethe mess ratio is higher in poorer areas where one of 3 things happen:

1. The people in the area have less respect for anything they do not "own".

2. The station is considered to be a punishment for anyone assigned to clean it up, and as such cleaning is not necessarily the best.

3. The LACK of use make them ideal spots for homeless people to come in and use as a crash space or lavatory.


I have seen very few people taking a piss on a track at rush hour at times square station, but I have seen at least a half dozen doing just that after hours at the Christopher Street path (a small, relatively clean station).....

Schadenfrau
June 22nd, 2005, 12:22 PM
I have to say, I rarely see homeless people in poor areas at all, much less in subway stations in poor areas. The highest concentration of homeless people in NYC is in the more affluent areas of Manhattan.

ryan
June 22nd, 2005, 12:55 PM
I have to say, I rarely see homeless people in poor areas at all, much less in subway stations in poor areas. The highest concentration of homeless people in NYC is in the more affluent areas of Manhattan.

Ditto. I don't consider North Brooklyn poor, but I rarely see homeless people, and the stations, while not renovated, are less human-ly dirty than grime-coated. I've only seen human waste (euphamisms can be so good sometimes) in Manhattan. I was in the 59th/lex station last night, and gah I agree that it's nasty.

Ninjahedge
June 22nd, 2005, 01:58 PM
Question then, where is the piss smell coming from?

I gather from the article that that was one of the complaints in Brooklyn as well as the city, but I may be wrong...

Schadenfrau
June 22nd, 2005, 02:10 PM
The stench of urine is probably coming from drunken stockbrokers heading back to Hoboken after a night of revelry.

ryan
June 22nd, 2005, 02:16 PM
urine is another story, and one I know well. My station has a polish bar just outside an entrance that takes one to a hallway out of view of the booth. Apparently the taboo against public urination is less strict in Europe...

Article above talked about a urinal that was leaking onto a platform, which confirms every suspicion my paranoia about getting dripped on ever led my brain to.

krulltime
June 22nd, 2005, 02:19 PM
Question then, where is the piss smell coming from?

I gather from the article that that was one of the complaints in Brooklyn as well as the city, but I may be wrong...

I think alot of the Piss comes from drunk people.

I saw a couple of 'well-dress-suburban-type-of-guys' walking all drunk and all and as I was going down to take the train on a late thursday night at 14th street and 7th and I notice that 2 out of the 4 guys were just pissing. I didnt want to say anything because I was so outnumber but I try to look for a cop down at the platform with no avail. Then my train came and I left.

I also seen other drunks piss on curves, corners and on buildings. There is just too many bars in the city. So piss all over will be very common.

ablarc
June 24th, 2005, 12:23 PM
I knew it. It had to be white guys in suits. Who else would it have been? They go up there to piss.

Hof
July 15th, 2005, 10:45 AM
They have social restrictions that prevent them from frequenting bars in their own neighborhoods.Leave them alone.They're atoning for their drunken affluence by mimicing the poor who would use your front door if they had to.It's social equilization.
Somehow,they are like the dogs of Washington Square,let loose to run on the Grand Concourse.
I have pissed in the Subway while wearing a suit,but that was before Guiliani...

Clarknt67
July 15th, 2005, 06:15 PM
I confess I've taken a leak or two on platform (one time I distinctly remember that I got hijacked by a train that skipped my stop without warning keeping me trapped in the system about a half hour longer than planned).

If NYC were smart and really interested in curing this problem there would at least be urinal in the major stations (14th st, 42, etc...)

TLOZ Link5
July 15th, 2005, 11:49 PM
Well, there ARE bathrooms in the Times Square station.

pianoman11686
July 16th, 2005, 12:00 AM
I feel that it's much less likely for someone to piss in a more public area like a big station versus a small local stop. Then again, I did once walk in on two guys washing themselves in full view at the Port Authority, right in front of the sinks, while almost every urinal was being occupied by people at the height of rush hour. I for one have never pissed on a subway platform. I think the only outdoor pissing I've done in New York is in Central Park and on the side of a building somewhere on 5th in the lower 90's.

krulltime
July 16th, 2005, 02:07 AM
I always try to use Hotel Bathrooms... Especially in Times Square area.

robster
July 31st, 2005, 05:10 PM
The subway in glasgow is far smellier. The cushioned seats sook up all the odours.

Gregory Tenenbaum
September 28th, 2006, 10:50 AM
New site from gawker

http://gawker.com/maps/smell/

Make sure that you report your smells there...the site allows you to report where and what smell - all kinds of smells from bodily functions to "mold and wet".

However the site appears to be missing a symbol for the mysterious 2005 waffle cone smells.

Punzie
December 2nd, 2006, 08:48 AM
Question then, where is the piss smell coming from?
Sometimes it comes from stray, unneutered cats (felines) that are marking their "territory".

We all know that an untold number of stray cats are part of subway arena. The upside is that they provide some rodent control; the downside is their urge to spray their scent.

The spray is urine mixed with viscous, fatty materials, giving it an unbearably pungent stink. The smell is so resilient, so hard to eliminate, that there is a large and growing industry of cleaning products that are "scent" removers.

lofter1
December 2nd, 2006, 10:33 AM
Never in all my years in NYC have I seen a cat in the subway ...

(looking forward to pic of a kitty aboard the Q Train ;) )

Punzie
December 2nd, 2006, 06:37 PM
Never in all my years in NYC have I seen a cat in the subway ...
:eek:I guess I was unclear about what I meant by "subway arena". Of course there are no kitty cats strutting around the subway platform and up and down operating cars! I was refering to the feral felines living in subway yards and the like. The spray scent is so long-lasting that a cat could mark its territory on the outside or inside of a non-operating train, and a month later when it's put into service, the smell will still reek.

My friend who is a subway conductor has told me about the cats -- and much worse. I'm going to try to get him to join this site, because he has such interesting "inside info" to share.

P.S. Plenty of kitties take the Q train, but they're inside carrying cases...

http://i71.photobucket.com/albums/i130/Rapunzel61/Smileys/Wink-Razz/kitten-wink.jpg

Ninjahedge
December 4th, 2006, 09:42 AM
I have smelled cat stank before, most of this smell is human.

I have also seen, at least on the PATH (at Christopher) guys kind of sneaking to the end of the platform and pissing on a column on on the track.

Really tactless!

lofter1
December 4th, 2006, 10:11 AM
My friend who is a subway conductor has told me about the cats -- and much worse. I'm going to try to get him to join this site, because he has such interesting "inside info" to share.

hmmm ... you've got me hooked ...

Ever seen this movie (http://www.bloody-disgusting.com/review/1363)?

It takes place in London's Underground rather than the NYC subway system, but taps into some universal fears ...

(basically disgusting (http://blogs.suntimes.com/scanners/2006/09/opening_shots_raw_meat_1.html) :eek: , but interesting if you're into the horror genre (http://www.dvdempire.com/Exec/v4_item.asp?userid=&item_id=531366) ;) )

http://images2.dvdempire.com/gen/movies/531366h.jpg

Punzie
December 16th, 2006, 01:30 AM
I like those movies, but they don't disgust me or scare me at all. That movie, complete with pic, would be perfect to post in the new horror movie topic:

http://www.wirednewyork.com/forum/showthread.php?t=11811