By Cristina Boado & Carlo Dellaverson
It's been called the "mother of all Lost and Founds." Tucked into the belly of New York's Grand Central Terminal is a nondescript, Post Office-like window where dejected commuters line up to see if, just maybe, the personal effects they left on the train have been recovered.
That's where Kenny Hegel, the patron saint of New Yorkers' misplaced belongings, comes in. He's one of several employees of Metro-North Railroad, the vast commuter rail system that feeds 750,000 people into and out of the sprawling terminal daily, whose job it is to maintain the Lost & Found- all in the hopes of reuniting passengers with whatever it is they've lost. And they lose a lot. "Cell phones are a big one. We get books, wallets, pocketbooks, suitcases, " says Hegel. And the list goes on.
On the day we visited Kenny - in the dead of winter - he was wrangling with the Lost & Found's huge coat rack that looks like it was lifted out of a dry cleaner, chock full of overcoats and suit jackets moving on a motorized pulley system. Lining the walls of the Lost & Found are boxes upon boxes of gloves, hats, keys, Blackberries and iPhones, laptops, bags full of wrapped presents - relics of a city shopping trip gone awry. Everything is neatly tagged with all relevant information: a description of the product, exactly where it was found and when.
Melissa Gissentanner is the Manager of the Lost and Found. "We spend a lot of time to try to locate the owner for the property. Sometimes we'll find mail or maybe receipts with the customer's name on it- do a little detective work".
The cluttered space has the feel of a coatroom at a busy restaurant, albeit with its share of peculiarities. "The most craziest thing I've seen are dentures" says Gissentanner. "She was very happy to get her teeth back".
Whatever the lost item is, one thing holds true: the passengers are always ecstatic to get it back. Last year, 24,691 missing articles were recovered in Grand Central - 2,000 a month - from trains, platforms, bathrooms and just about every nook and cranny in the expansive station. Of those, 13,126 were returned to their owners. For Kenny Hegel, reuniting owners with their personal items is the best part of the job. "I've had people offer me, take me out to dinner, offer me lunch, offer me money and of course I refuse it but it does feel great that I can help them out, that they're happy and, you know, that they found their item."