Lost and Found on NYC Trains

By Hector Felix

Have you ever walked out of a subway car and realized you left a possession behind, right as the doors are closing? Have you despaired of ever getting your keys or purse back? In fact, there are ways of claiming lost items.

“Customers can file lost and found reports several different ways,” says Melissa Gissentanner, manager of the Metro-North Lost and Found in Grand Central Station. “They can call 511 to speak to a representative. They would take the lost and found report for them. They can go online to www.mta.info. Or they could come down here to the lost and found and file a lost and found report in person.”

The Metro-North Lost and Found is a large room in a lower level of Grand Central and serves the entire train line, which had 82 million passengers in 2011.  Large white crates on shelves hold iPads, phones, keys, umbrellas, and other disparate items. According to the MTA, the GCT Lost & Found receives more than 2,000 items each month. The rate of return for most property is 50 percent and for high-value goods — such $15,000 ruby earrings and an errant Basset Hound — the rate of return is 80 percent, says the MTA.

Metro North staff often go an extra step to locate owners.  Often they will charge dead phones and other electronics to find identifying information. Melissa Gissentanner has been returning lost items to commuters for six years and has many stories to tell.

“I found an iPad mini was turned in and I was able to charge an item and access a little bit of its account,” says Gissentanner. “I found a phone number. I contacted him. I said, ‘Well can you tell me something about the item like the wallpaper?’ He told me what the wallpaper was and I asked him for his email address. He gave an email address and I said, ‘Well we have it.’ He said, ‘You’re kidding me.’”

Many times customers have no idea that they can track lost items. Kenny Polanco of the Bronx is one of the happy customers that decided to file a report after he was told that Metro-North had a lost and found. “I came to the lost and found, to see if they had found it, and they did,” says Polanco. “They asked me first how the phone looked, the model of the phone. When they saw it had a lock, they asked for my password to see if it was mine or not,” he says.

There are also some more unusual items turned in. Melissa says nothing surprises her after six years. “After a while nothing is strange,” she says. “Once in a while we get the hearing aid, we get the false teeth, dentures, clutches. Not to get too explicit, but every once in a while we get the suitcases full of adult toys and yeah, that’s odd,” she says, laughing loudly.

If you lose something on the New York City subway, the lost and found is located on the lower mezzanine of the 34th Street station on the A, C, E lines on 8th Avenue. You can file a claim online at lostfound.mtanyct.info.

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