Homeless blamed for E, F line odor

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Straphangers in Forest Hills and Kew Gardens got some relief last week after city workers found the source of a stench that permeated a subway station in each neighborhood.

Workers from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority investigated the 75th Avenue and Kew Gardens Union-Turnpike stops on the E and F lines Sept. 20 after days of complaints, the city said, and discovered evidence of human inhabitants who left mounds of garbage to fester in the tunnel between the two stations.

“Upon that investigation, a large amount of refuse was discovered in an unused utility room in the tunnel,” said MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz. “The room, which has apparently been inhabited by the homeless, was partially cleared that night. Then on Wednesday night [Sept. 21] crews returned to complete the job.”

After physically clearing out the garbage, MTA crews used a power washer to sanitize the room.

To prevent future incidents, Ortiz said the city placed new locks on the door.

Last week commuters could be seen walking around the stations with their noses plugged or shirts pulled up over their faces in an attempt to filter out the fetid air.

But on Monday morning, Trent Yarosevich, who takes the F train from Kew Gardens into Manhattan several times a week, was breathing freely as he read a book while waiting for the train.

“It was really unpleasant,” he said, referring to the malodorous air that wafted down the tunnel last week.

Yarosevich said he and his girlfriend had wondered what caused the smell. She thought it may have been a dead animal, but Yarosevich said no animal would have been large enough to create such a powerful aroma.

“It was really very peculiar,” he said, adding that it was complex and could only have emanated from a variety of decomposing substances. “It basically smelled like a large quantity of rotting garbage.”

Residents began complaining to the city and office of City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) days before the MTA investigated. On Friday, Koslowitz’s office sent a request to the city to stick its nose into the situation.

It is not uncommon for the MTA to discover homeless individuals living in the subterranean maze of public transportation tunnels, according to Ortiz.

When that happens, the city defers to the Bowery Residents’ Committee, a nonprofit started in the 1970s by homeless individuals living in Manhattan.

The city has a contract with the committee to assist with extricating homeless individuals from underground. The committee also offers a variety of services to any homeless person looking to get off of the streets.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Posted 2:55 pm, September 29, 2011
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