Where Is New York’s Worst Smell?

South Street Seaport
More like South Street port! Photo: Getty Images

For many months, the First Avenue L stop had a certain funk about it. It was fine near the station entrance, but as you walked down the platform, closer and closer to the tunnel mouth that leads under the East River towards Williamsburg, the stink was unmistakable. If you're one of those commuters who knows exactly where to stand on the platform to be right by the stairs when the doors open again, this was torture (all the good L exits are near the back of the train). You could always tell when trains were approaching, even before you saw them, because the stench got much more intense with the breeze. We always sort of suspected there was a dead body somewhere in the tunnel, and this suspicion was strengthened when the smell abruptly cleared up a couple of months ago (we didn't check the police blotters, but how else would it go away so quickly if the authorities didn't find the one upsetting cause and remove it?).

It was a very specific smell, one we had never experienced before living in New York. It was that awful scent that lurks in the most surprising places (behind Shake Shack in Madison Square Park, outside the Soho Grand). It clings to New York City the way the smell of pig poop clings to rural Michigan. We've been told it's the scent of rotting garbage, but often it exists when there is no garbage in sight. We've long suspected that it lingers around the places where there are cracks in the very thin interspatial divide between New York City and hades.

Now that it's approximately 10,000 degrees each day in the city (see above, re hades), the stench factor around here has gotten way worse. In the interest of public service, who wants to tell us the place he or she thinks it smells the worst in New York City? And what that person suspects the source of that odor to be. Now that our subway stop has been exorcised, our vote is for the stretch of sidewalk in front of the park at First and 1st — a.k.a. the Busker's Latrine. Put your choice in the comments!