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Gas Odor

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Breaking: The Gas Smell Is Still Unexplained!

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To the list of things that continue to elicit newspaper headlines despite no actual new news — the death of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, famously, or the death of President Gerald Ford — you can add a new one: Monday's gas stink across the city. After that day's orgy of we-don't-know-what's-causing-it coverage and yesterday's burst of no-one-knows-what-caused-it follow-ups, today the Times continues flooding that non-zone with "What's Next for a Mysterious Stench? Theories, Punch Lines and Cyberspace," in which we learn that in the absence of any real information "Commuters, Internet bloggers" — that's as opposed to the less widely read pen-and-paper bloggers, we presume — "and standup comedians filled a trove of ideas, some wacky, some sinister, some even believable." What are the theories, according to the paper of record?

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Something Is Rotten

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Seriously, what was that smell? Comedy fodder it may be, but evacuations at Rockefeller Center and Macy's — not to mention PATH closures in the middle of the morning commute — are nobody's idea of a good time. (Nor, can we imagine, is it much good for business.) So wouldn't it be good to know what really happened, to make sure it doesn't happen again? We're no experts, but we think so. And yet a quick perusal of today's news makes it clear: Nobody had an idea when it was happening, and nobody has an idea now. The first assumption, in our city of forever-frayed nerves, was terrorism; that version, no matter how tantalizing to local news teams, got thrown away as soon as the smell failed to sicken anyone. (Terrorists trafficking in minor olfactory nuisances would be something out of early Woody Allen.) Hours later, ConEd deflected all blame and swore that there was no gas or mercaptan leak. Finally, the Department of Environmental Protection "theorized" the smell could have wafted over from New Jersey — which became the Post's accepted, front-page-worthy rationale — but when you can't muster a more forceful sound bite than "It's within the realm of possibility," you may as well admit you have no clue. (Also within the realm of possibility: a Second Avenue subway, victory in Iraq.) In reality — and like with last year's syrup smell — there are no leads to pursue, no actions to take, no lessons to learn. That stinks. N.J.'S P.U. Ripens Apple [NYP] A Rotten Smell Raises Alarms and Questions [NYT]

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Oh Mother

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• So who's to blame for yesterday's sulfuric odor across Manhattan that today has tabloid headline writers gleefully trafficking in fart puns? The leading version is an emission from a swamp across the Hudson. New Jersey, we thought better of you. [NYP] • A security guard employed at the Office of the State Comptroller in Albany is being charged with exposing himself to two 13-year-old girls this past Saturday — at the office. Kinda puts Hevesi's indiscretions in perspective. [AP via amNY] • A Bronx mother who had earlier claimed her baby was stolen at gunpoint on New Year's Eve is now suspected of abandoning the 1-month-old in a Dumpster. The cops are frantically searching landfills. [WNBC] • Meet Stavon Simpson, a slightly less evil mom. According to the D.A., she took the $186,000 life-insurance payout from the dead father of her child — bequeathed expressly to the daughter's education — and decided it would be better spent on a Land Rover and things like the cable bill. Because the most important lesson is confidence. [NYDN] • And, you still can't get gay-married in New York, but you can get gay-divorced. One half of a feuding ex-couple cited the union's illegality to get out of a separation agreement; in a Solomon-esque decision, a city judge has ruled that the contract stands even if the marriage itself doesn't. [NYT]

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City Stinks of Gas

So apparently most of midtown stinks like a natural gas. The AP says Macy's has been evacuated, and NY1 says PATH service up the Sixth Avenue line to 33rd Street is suspended. It stinks as far northeast as Rockefeller Center, and, according to the AP, as far west as Jersey City. Nobody knows why, but AP is hinting at a gas leak in Chelsea. If so, and if the smell's traveling so far, that's a lot of gas. So, uh, maybe you could refrain from lighting any matches? Thanks. UPDATE, 12:50 pm.: The good people at Gothamist, who follow such things much more carefully than we do, suggest that the source of the smell is someplace in the West Village, that officials continue to have no idea what it is, but that, even so, Bloomberg assures New Yorkers that there's nothing to worry about. City Agencies Investigating Strong Gas Odor in Manhattan [NY1] Gas-Like Odor Permeates Manhattan [AP via CNN]

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