The emptiness began for me, as I think it does for most of us, with the visual. Where I live, in Murray Hill, stores on Third Avenue became bare windows overnight. You walked below 34th and... wait, wasn't there a store over here? The owner had just shut it down and was standing on the sidewalk looking at it. He saw me staring, processing the void. "Wanna see?" he asked. Stripped walls, wiring hanging like the Gorgon's hair from the ceiling. That's when the smell of the recession kicked in: old plaster dust first, then concrete (Gaultier's Puissance Deux without the vanilla). Then emptiness: the absence of people, of circulated air, of the layers of plastic, fiberboard and carpeting with which we surround ourselves.
Text from Eau de Woe: What does the recessions smell like? by Chandler Burr in the latest New York Times T Magazine (which is poorly indexed and barely searchable -- please pardon the absence of a permalink). Image from Midtown Manhattan not too long ago, a storefront that has stood empty for several months now.