The early evening skies over Hell’s Kitchen turned gray as the city filled with the smell of smoke from Canadian wildfires. The dense smoke, which blocked out the sun, caused confusion as automatic lighting systems triggered well before the scheduled 8:24pm sunset.

Smoke Skies Hell's Kitchen
The smoke-filled skies over Hell’s Kitchen early this evening. Photo: Berny Mit

New York City has found itself under a shroud of wildfire smoke from Canada, resulting in a dramatic rise in air quality levels to unhealthy standards. The sight of a fiery red sun rising in the morning was a stark indication of the looming smoke-filled days to come. The phenomenon turned heads citywide and quickly became a hot topic on social media. Iconic landmarks, such as the Empire State Building, One Vanderbilt and the Chrysler Building, were enveloped in an intense orange haze, adding an uncanny element to the city’s skyline.

New York City this morning Air quality
The sun rising through the smoke over Manhattan this morning. Photo: Gary Hershorn

However, the scenes carried a warning of unhealthy air quality levels. The East is bracing for more smoke this week, prompting the issue of an air quality alert for multiple states, including New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont and New Hampshire. This alert cautions that the high concentration of air pollutants may pose risks to individuals with heart or lung disease, children, and adults over 65, and urges them to limit their time outdoors.

Tonight's Air Quality HK
Tonight’s air quality in New York and the flow of smoke down from Canada. Image via Open Maps.

Tonight, Hell’s Kitchen dog walker, Mirjana Vicari, expressed her disbelief on Instagram, saying, “This is absolutely nuts. Poor earth. I can’t believe you can smell the smoke”. “This wildfire smoke is crazy. No one wants to sit outside, obviously. It also slows down a night that could have been busy. Hope it goes away tomorrow,” said Sabrina Gao from Sesamo restaurant on W52nd and 10th Avenue.

Daniele Kucera from Etcetera Etcetera on W44th Street told us: “We had three tables no show. Otherwise, it was a decent Tuesday. One table even ate outdoors,” he added. “This is really bad. I am wearing a mask today.”

Times Square smoke Gary Hershorn
The scene in Times Square on Tuesday evening as smoke shrouded the city. Photo: Gary Hershorn

“It was surreal! Not great for business as I think people wisely stayed indoors,” said Tyrone Green from Dark Side of the Moo on W44th Street.

Adam Block, owner of The Press Lounge on 11th Avenue, commented: “It reminds me of home during the fire season in Northern California. It’s where I first had the pleasure of learning how to breathe through a N95 Mask (pre-pandemic). As for business, the Canadian smoke just made for another beautiful night at The Press Lounge. That said, my staff felt somewhat hypocritical enforcing our non-smoking policy.”

Smoke Hell's Kitchen
The lights were already glowing on Restaurant Row at 7pm this evening as the smoke moved in. Photo: Phil O’Brien
Smoke Hell's Kitchen
Some diners continued eating outside, but many restaurants reported canceled bookings. Photo: Phil O’Brien
Times Square smoke Gary Hershorn
A visitor to Times Square on the TKTS steps taking pics of the sky as darkness came early to the city. Photo: Gary Hershorn
Smoke Hell's Kitchen
The smoke shops were still shining bright on 9th Avenue. Photo: Phil O’Brien
Smoke Hell's Kitchen
More masks were in use this evening as the smell of the smoke grew and air quality dropped. Photo: Phil O’Brien
Smoke Hell's Kitchen
Car headlights were on and smoke hung over 9th Avenue at 7pm this evening. Photo: Phil O’Brien
Smoke Hell's Kitchen
A dog walker taking pictures of the sky at DeWitt Clinton Park on 11th Avenue. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Join the Conversation


  1. We are in a Code Red moment for humanity, and we all have to do everything possible to transition to Green sustainable living and reduce our carbon footprint. Period full stop. W42 could be doing more to help by showing us how, providing examples, highlighting eco-heroes, etc. This smoke is not ‘awe-inspiring’ and ‘gosh bad for business’ it represents the terror and suffering of innocent wild creatures and eco-systems destroyed forever by our western, consumptive way of life.

    1. Hi Rebecca. You are correct — we have removed “awe-inspiring” from the story. It was a bad choice of words. As always, our small resources our stretched and we would like to do more about many significant issues facing our world and our community. Appreciate your feedback. Phil

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