New York City Probes Mystery Syrup Smell

Was it the sweet smell of success? Or King Kong eating his breakfast?

Well, neither. But there's still no rational explanation for the maple syrup aroma that wafted Thursday across Manhattan, the second such olfactory incident since October. Calls to the city's 311 help line and the Fire Department reported the pleasant scent around 3:30 p.m. in neighborhoods from midtown to the upper East and West Sides.

"It seems to be the same odor that people detected in late October," city Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Ian Michaels said Friday. The agency sent out its hazardous materials team to take instant readings of the air from neighborhoods where the calls originated, but nothing dangerous was found.

Air samples brought in for additional testing were also negative, Michaels said: "It is once again a mystery. It seems to be gone." On Oct. 27, the maple scent was reported more near the southern tip of Manhattan, with calls coming in from around City Hall and Chelsea — although some calls did come in from the Upper West Side, about 10 miles to the north.

"The calls aren't exactly complaints," said Michaels — no surprise in a city where a smorgasbord of less appetizing smells are often on the menu. Most callers described the maple smell as sweet. The windy conditions on Thursday may have accounted for the spread of the smell from midtown north, and to either side of Central Park.

The city received no calls on Friday about the fragrance of Vermont syrup in the Big Apple. Similar tests done after the October sniffings never uncovered the source of that aroma, either.