Monday, March 31, 2014

What's That Acrid Smell Near 9th Street Subway Station In Gowanus?

Carroll Gardens resident and friend Steven just shot me an email to ask if anyone has mentioned a super strong, strange odor around the F/G train subways station at 9th Street.
He writes:
"I wanted to ask if you or anyone on your contact list has experienced the very acrid smell recently near the smith and 9th station. Very oily and toxic smelling. Very industrial. Its new. maybe a month. Different than anything we have had in the area before. Don't know if its connected to the Public Place testing but I don't think so. Any other reports?"

 Of course, petroleum smells around the Gowanus are not unusual, but as Steven mentions, this is different.  How about it?  Did anyone else notice the smell?

Public Place at Smith Street adjacent to the Gowanus Canal.
The photo was taken during National Grid's pilot study in early March.
(photo credit: Steven Miller)

As far as a connection between the smell and National Grid's Pilot Study at Public Place, it seems unlikely.  The pilot work was just completed.  Here is a press release from National Grid:

March 26, 2014
Dear Neighbor,
National Grid and its contractors are now in the final phase of pilot study work at the former Citizens Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) site, which is bound by Smith, Huntington and Fifth Streets and the Gowanus Canal.
Sheet pile driving was completed along Smith Street, including the intersection of Smith and 5th Street, on March 11th.
Timber piles were removed successfully from the bulkhead along the Canal on March 13th and the land­side areas along the bulkhead have been stabilized. Sheet pile driving was also completed in this area.
National Grid and its contractors will review the noise and vibration data collected from this work and incorporate it into the final remedial design plan for the former Citizens MGP.
Cranes and hammers were removed from the site on March 14th and the remaining equipment was demobilized on March 20th. Final completion of pilot study work is anticipated for the week of March 24th.
National Grid remains committed to keeping the community informed of our activities at the former Citizens MGP site and we appreciate your patience and cooperation throughout the pilot study work.
For more information on the activities mentioned above, the pilot study in general, or if you would like to be added to our email distribution list, please leave a message on our hotline at (718) 403­2084, email us at, or visit our website at for future updates.


Anonymous said...

However at the same time, Lightstone has been digging up their site, removing oil storage and such. The Lightstone property was the former home to the Standard Oil of NY Company. There have been heavy oil smells this past week all along Bond Street. It has not been pleasant.
It is possible that current air patterns, with high winds, are moving those oil fumes about.

Anonymous said...

I've noticed it this past week too, even on the weekend - it's very consistent and doesn't seem to increase or decrease noticeably with the wind. It's concentrated more near the subway entrance and eastward towards lowes. You can't really smell it by the time you get to Court. Has a solvent smell to it. Doesn't smell like petroleum.

Anonymous said...

This smell has been very strong off and on around smith and garnet for the last 2 months. I assumed it was coming from the heating oil depot and their increased traffic due to colder than normal winter temps. Once while walking my dog I had to turn around because the odor was too intense. Callled 311.

Anonymous said...

The photograph looking down on Public Place is amazing. Look closely and imagine the sea-level 2 to 3 feet higher; what that would do to the whole area.

Sure hope they get these areas cleaned up before those climate change effects take place. The NY Times had a story on Saturday that says sea=level rise in New York will be 3-4 times more than what is expected across the world.

The photo sure gives you pause.

Anonymous said...

I have also noticed this horrible smell. Tonight it is especially pungent to the point of being noticeable inside my apt on 9th street. I am also calling 311.

Anonymous said...

It's disgusting and frightening. Who knows what subtle effects these toxins may have on our health. I think it's worse in the afternoons and evenings. I also called 311, and hope they will figure something out.

Anonymous said...

Katia, do you know any more about this? I have called 311 several times when I've smelled it, and encouraged others to do the same.

Katia said...

I haven't heard anything else, but your comment suggests that the problem still persist.

Have you followed up on your first 311 calls? Has NYC DEP gone out and tested the air?
Please let me know.

Unknown said...

"The Department of Environmental Protection determined that this complaint is a duplicate of a previously filed complaint. The original complaint is being addressed. "

Not sure if there's a way to find out more specific info... I'll try.

Katia said...

When calling 311, please explicitly request that the NYCDEP investigate the possible source of the smell and report back the results of their investigation.

Anonymous said...

Katia, do you know what happened with this? The smell is worse and worse (more so in the evenings and weekend days). It seems to come from south of Smith & 9th, possibly south of BQE...

Katia said...

No, I think the source of the smell has never been determined.
I can just urge everyone to call 311.

MJ said...

Any updates on this? I'm at 4th Ave and 6th St and can see a white fog most nights coming from gowanus area right under the BQE..the smell has woken me up at night, it smells toxic!