NEW YORK (AP) - Authorities were investigating the source of a mysterious gas-like odor Monday that wafted over Manhattan and parts of New Jersey and led to some building evacuations and mass transit disruptions.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said there was no indication that the air was unsafe to breathe. Department of Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said there was no sign of terrorism.
"It may just be an unpleasant smell," Bloomberg said. "Our suggestion is that people should do their best to ventilate areas, open their windows or turn on any fans until this gas passes."
The Fire Department began getting calls about the odor around 9 a.m., said spokesman Tim Hinchey. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey temporarily suspended some of its PATH commuter train service between New Jersey and Manhattan as a precaution.
People reported the smell from the northern tip of Manhattan down to Greenwich Village and across the Hudson River to New Jersey.
There was a small natural gas leak in Greenwich Village, but it wouldn't have been enough to account for the pervasive odor, Bloomberg said. He said the smell may have resulted from a leak of the chemical mercaptan, which is added to natural gas to produce its easily recognizable odor. By itself, natural gas is odorless.
Utility crews from Consolidated Edison were investigating, but they had found no abnormal changes in the gas transmission system, said spokesman Chris Olert. "If there was a big leak, we would see a change in the gas flow," he said.
Some office buildings and apartment buildings were evacuated as a precaution.
"The smell was very strong. It was very scary," said Yolanda Van Gemd, an administrator at ASA, a business school that was evacuated near the Empire State Building.
In August, seven people were treated at hospitals after a gaseous smell in the boroughs of Queens and Staten Island.