We all know how bad the New York City subway system can smell sometimes. In the worst of times, we pull up our scarves or shirts over our noses and try not to breathe. But there might be a real explanation for what straphangers are experiencing. Angela Kim, a graphic design student at the School of Visual Arts has installed a guerrilla “Scratch and Sniff” project entitled “If You Smell Something, Smell Something Else,” a play on the ever-present MTA warning “If you see something, say something.”
All photos via Angela Kim
“Odor at this station,” reads the poster, a dead ringer for the standard MTA announcements, informing readers of a damning correlation: the subway fare went up from $2 to $2.50 from 2008 to 2013 but the cleaning staff decreased by 48% in this same time period. Furthermore, it says, “the equipment for track cleaning is often broken and most of the tracks are not cleaned on schedule.” The stickers, in friendly pastel colors, are scented with vanilla, lavender, orchid, magnolia and tuberose.
The underlying aim, writes Kim, is “for straphangers to learn about the MTA problems by stimulating their sense of smell.” Kim tells Untapped Cities that she’s seen people sharing the project on Instagram and secretly overheard riders talking about the project: “Some were asking themselves if they were real, and some commented that it’s a smart idea.”
They’ve been popular enough that Kim will be posting them “on [as] many stations as possible throughout this month,” she tells us. The posters were set up at Canal Street, Union Square, and Herald Square.