A Skunk Weed Epidemic

Weed Stinks Up Roosevelt Island. Increasingly.

Updated 18 weeks ago David Stone
Weed Stinks Up Roosevelt Island. Increasingly.

Back in my day, a term I once swore I'd never use, weed - marijuana - had an easy to recognize odor, one that filled my friend Jon's Ford when we knocked off a high school lunch hour on a first date with Mary Jane. It'd tickle your nostrils at concerts and private parties where hastily rolled joints circulated. But if it stunk like it sometimes does today, I'd have stayed with Ripple, our cheaper and legal alternative.

I confess. The first time I caught a whiff of the newer strains of grass, while walking on 2nd Avenue around 67th Street, I thought a skunk wandered all that way from Central Park.

Clueless about certain layers of contemporary culture, I needed a few more exposures and thickheaded observations before somebody clued me in.

It wasn't your dad's aroma.

"Jesus," I thought, "is it worth getting high to tolerate a sickening stench like that?"

Before the scaffolding came down around Westview, I sampled the offensive bouquet with which nature blessed skunks to keep predators away on a near daily basis. Even a grizzly, fresh out of hibernation, would prefer hunger.

It baffles me, but it seems beauty is not the only thing left to the eye - in this case, nose - of the beholder.

Full disclosure: I stopped smoking grass long ago, not because I didn't like it, but because it weakened my ability to concentrate long after the high melted away. Not a treasured attribute for novelists.

And I had a boss of whom I was very fond who used to light up in the dining area of restaurants, using a cigarette-holder like some kind of funky New Yorker cover.

And I don't care, most of the time, how anyone else gets their ya-yas. To each his her her own, within reason.

But I most certainly do care when I'm forced to smell someone else's stinky pleasures.

When I told me wife that Cynthia Nixon, who's challenging Governor Cuomo in the Democratic primary, that she favors legalizing marijuana, which I also support, my wife asked if Nixon had smelled our hallway.

Yes, skunk weed has turned some public spaces in Manhattan Park nauseating as it has in other Roosevelt Island complexes. (Most vociferous complaints come from Westview and Roosevelt Landings.)

Here's an interesting fact:

According to thefreshtoast.com, "Cannabis strains have unique terpenes (essential oils) that provide the aroma. Some strains smell lemony (limonene) or spicy (caryophyllene) or floral (linalool) or piney (alpha-pinene)."

So, let's be sure we understand - the obnoxious odors - skunky, smelly socks, etc. - is a choice made by the smoker who decides to stick you and me with the stench that gets him or her a stroll through purple haze.

Even skunks have their adorable side.
Even skunks have their adorable side.

Here in Manhattan Park, the culprit is a student or studdents living in one of the many former family apartments converted to dormitory or short term rental space.

It's not a cultural issue. Marijuana is illegal in China, more strictly than it is in New York. And maybe that's the point, young adults away from the restrictions of home appreciating more liberal local laws.

I don't have an absolute solution for clearing public spaces of what's easily mistaken as a nearby skunk habitat, but here are some thoughts.

First, asking PSD to commit resources for what is legally little more than a domestic irritation is not going to be successful, if only because the smoke is almost everywhere and the smokers hard to catch.

But since it's fair to assume that few of your neighbors want to be deliberately disgusting, a simple, non-confrontational conversation might do the trick. Asking them to use a better smelling brand or to smoke at the window or on the balcony may be seen as a fair compromise.

Airbnb-style apartments, of which there are many on Roosevelt Island and mostly illegal, may be hopeless, and in other short-term or dormitory style spaces, many also illegal, language may be a barrier.

So, you might want to try what I did. Ask your building managers handle it.

Our floor has three families with young children, all but one preschoolers, and three frequently changing collections of Asian students who should know better but don't. I emailed our management office, letting them know that reeking grass forces us to stuff towels under the base of our door to keep the stink out. Walking down our hallway alone is nauseating.

And what about the kids?

You may not be as lucky, but Manhattan Park property manager Brian Weisberg responded without delay, thanking me for the information and promising to deal with the issue immediately. It's worked so far.

One thing I'd not suggest is posting signs like the ridiculous thing the RIRA Common Council stuck on a pole behind PS/IS 217. Warnings and finger-wagging does little more than stiffen resistance. Nobody, after all, is going to jail for smoking a joint anymore than they are for jaywalking.

Confronting a public smoker near a playground as an ill-advised parent did last year is also not an optimal strategy. You can be confident that the guy knows what he's doing and doesn't care. Call PSD or go in and make a report.

Weed is with us to stay, the chances for full legalization high now that the Cynthia Factor has Governor Cuomo turning left faster than a taxi trying to beat oncoming traffic. So, let's handle it like good neighbors, respecting each other's rights and trusting the goodwill in most of us.

But being realists, too, be prepared to hold you nose almost anywhere on Roosevelt Island and, really, in the city. It isn't going away, but maybe we can coax them to make it smell better.

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