Awaiting IHOP’s Bacon Buster With Bated Breath

bacon diaries
ihopSandy Berger The view out of Sandy Berger’s window.

I’m not averse to bacon. I used to make it, on very rare occasions. But ever since the International House of Putrid Odors opened and its ventilation fans began pumping out the smell of recycled bacon through my bedroom windows, a mere whiff of it is enough to make me ill.

Last August, before IHOP opened on East 14th Street, two gigantic air conditioners suddenly appeared on its second floor roof (they must have been crane lifted). At night, when it used to be pretty quiet, they sounded like 100 antiquated air conditioners running simultaneously.

It took several 311 complaints before a Department of Environmental Protection inspector found them in violation of the law. The inspector told me he knew he’d be back once the restaurant opened: he predicted there would be odor complaints, and he was so right.

IHOP’s training sessions began in early September. That’s when I first experienced the smell that would become the bane of my existence. Certain nights, I awoke from a good sleep feeling nauseous and wondered what I must have eaten the night before. Then I realized it was the bacon smell.

And it’s always the same smell, no matter the hour. Strong enough to turn your stomach, it smells like bacon that’s been sitting in its own grease on lit burners for days on end, so that the grease keeps getting recooked. Once, I actually smelled pancakes and thought I could live with that – but IHOP seems to be out of the pancake business. I tend to keep my windows closed until I check the weather report to be sure there is no wind coming from the south.

After 40 or more complaints made to the D.E.P. between Aug. 2 and Nov. 3 of last year, I still don’t understand how D.E.P. determines a violation. I’ve stood in front of my open window next to an inspector who can’t smell what I smell and isn’t equipped with a single odor-detecting device (besides his nose, of course).

ihopDaniel Maurer

I’ve read that the most common complaints made to D.E.P. involve noise and grease odors, but I wasn’t prepared to find that practically every city agency and elected official was ineffective in helping us get relief. Along with others in my building, I contacted everyone from the mayor’s office (twice) to the corporate Board of DineEquity, which owns IHOP. The Public Advocate never even returned our calls. Community Board 6 was a washout. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Councilwoman Rosie Mendez wrote a letter on our behalf but never bothered following up. So much for the power of the vote.

The smells are still a problem and I guess the wind has shifted because here it is 3 p.m. on a Sunday and all of a sudden the bacon waft has invaded my bedroom and it is time to shut the windows.

About eight weeks ago I learned from the reporter who has been following our cause that the owner was going to install a ventilation unit as soon as it was feasible. The owner of the IHOP said, “It knocks down virtually all of the odor and almost all the noise,” but so far I haven’t seen any sign of that machine. And, quite frankly, the information on the unit that I found on the internet doesn’t mention anything about restaurant grease smells like the kind we’ve been living with for the past nine months.

I am counting the days when the ventilation unit will appear and hoping something magical will happen –  but I’m not holding my breath. Except, of course, on the days when the smell of bacon grease is in the air.

Sandy Berger’s Bacon Diary, Page One

Tuesday, May 29
Although my regular alarm was set for 8 a.m., I got an early wake-up call at 6 a.m., care of bacon grease odor that was so strong you could cut it with a knife. Unfortunately, you can’t hit snooze on a smell.

Tuesday, May 30
At 5:30 p.m., some early-bird smells of hamburger. They were nothing like the strong bacon-grease smells and didn’t last too long, but returned at 11:30 p.m. along with the late snackers.

Thursday, June 1
I wasn’t around very much. Although there were occasional smells coming from the fans, they weren’t persistent enough to register a report.

Stay tuned to The Local for future installments from Ms. Berger’s bacon diary.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this post referred to the ventilation unit as a “smog-hog.” That reference has been deleted since the term is a brand name and Smog Hog says that it did not manufacture the unit in question.