Bloomberg Downplays Threat, As NYC Media Probe Gas Smell Throughout Manhattan

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By: E&P Staff

Newspapers, TV and radio based in New York are frantically probing the source, and possible ill-effects, of a mysterious and strong gas smell spreading throughout much of Manhattan and the area. Several midtown buildings have been evacuated and the PATH train shut down.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a press conference just before 11 a.m. said there had been a small gas leak at Bleecker St. in Manhattan but this — contrary to early reports — could not account for the widespread odor. “We don’t know, but we are investigating,” he said. “We do know there have been no injuries.” He said everyone from the Coast Guard to Con Ed were probing. He said air sensors did not show any elevated levels of natural gas, which cannot normally be detected by smell unless something is added to it.

He noted that the PATH trains to midtown were just turned back on and in general downplayed the threat. “If it is natural gas, we will identify to source and shut it down,” he said. “Generally the levels are not at level to be harmful,” but he added that people should ventilate “to get fresh oxygen.”

“It may just be an unpleasant smell, but we don’t believe it is dangerous.” He later said, “You can read anything into this as you wish. This is true: The smell is there, we do not know the source of it, we do not believe it is dangerous.”

Officials couldn’t say immediately what the odor is. It smelled like natural gas, and prompted thousands of calls to police.

E&P inquiries found that the AP, New York Times, New York Post and Daily News were carrying on as normal. The Daily News shut off air intake “as a precautionary measure, we are not evacuating,” a spokeswoman said.

The Fire Department said it began getting calls about the odor around 9 a.m. The smell also was reported across the Hudson River in Weehawken and Jersey City, New Jersey.

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