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Smelly L Train Now Has Nauseating ‘Dusty Haze,’ Riders Say: Gothamist


MTA fans near the Graham Avenue station (Jennifer Hsu / Gothamist)

One week after the noxious chemical smell first began tormenting riders and workers along the L line, some commuters say the stink has worsened, and is now accompanied by a thick fog and rubbing alcohol odor.

Dave Kopach, a Greenpoint resident, told Gothamist that the “construction site smell” on the Bedford Avenue platform was more pungent on Monday morning than it was all last week. “There was a dusty haze throughout the station, it made me so nauseous and dizzy and gave me a headache,” he said, adding that several other riders were covering their mouths and noses. “It was like a fog—when the train lights came in you could see all of the particles in the air.”

News of the smell’s possible evolution comes after the tunnel was closed this weekend for already-planned repair work. On Friday afternoon, the MTA and Department of Conservation issued a statement acknowledging the persistence of the odor, which has reportedly sickened several MTA workers and caused at least two riders to collapse. The agencies vowed to amp up their efforts to banish the smell by laying “additional cleaning products and absorbent material all along the tracks and at the source.” (The rubbing alcohol stench, perhaps?)

While the source of the fumes have not yet been confirmed, officials believe that they are likely the result of fuel oil seeping into the tunnel from an abandoned diesel tank buried in East Williamsburg, or else connected to the tens of thousands of gallons of oil that Exxon dumped into the area throughout the 20th century. Neither the MTA nor the DEC responded to inquiries about the smell’s possible evolution on Monday.

Meanwhile, some Williamsburg residents say the fumes have infiltrated their homes. Tracey Madaj, who lives above the L train between Lorimer and Bedford Avenues, told Gothamist that the smell entered her apartment last Wednesday, and has still not dissipated as of this morning. She believes the odor may be giving her headaches and affecting her appetite, and says she’s worried about its effect on her 5-year-old child. Her emails to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection have not been returned, she said.

On Monday afternoon, a person who answered the phone at Councilmember Stephen Levin’s office said they’d received numerous calls and emails from residents concerned that the noxious smell had contaminated their apartments. The aide speculated that it may have something to do with the industrial fans the MTA had set up along the odor zone to get ride of the smell. “It’s like the MTA can’t win,” he said.

Councilmember Levin, whose district includes the Bedford Avenue stop of the L, called last week for the MTA to replace L train service with shuttle buses until the issue is resolved. His position on that has not changed, according to an aide.




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