The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

December 27, 2013

NYC transit hubs handle flood of lost items

NEW YORK (AP) — For the handful of New York transit officials who dutifully collect and catalog more than 50,000 items a year lost on commuter trains, subways and buses, the monotonous flood of wallets, handbags, eyeglasses and smartphones is occasionally broken by tales of some of the crazier things left behind.

There was a pet bunny rabbit, a prosthetic leg, a car bumper, a tuba, a diamond engagement ring and an ordinary-looking briefcase that was opened to reveal a dizzying array of adult toys.

"We get false teeth almost every week," said William Bonner, supervisor of the New York City Transit lost-and-found office below the 34th Street subway, which has amassed 26,000 items this year. "How do you lose your teeth?"

A few blocks north at the Metropolitan Transit Authority's Metro-North Railroad lost and found deep under Manhattan's Grand Central Station, five clerks oversee the 100 to 150 items that come in every day from Metro-North trains, which run between the city and its northern suburbs and Connecticut.

For every item, the clerks document the train, car and seat number where it was found. Beyond the boxes and bins of the most common items — wallets, keys, reading glasses, umbrellas and electronics — there is a dry cleaner-style coat rack to handle hundreds of forgotten coats. There's also an area designated for at least a half-dozen bicycles in the office at any given time.

"We get bikes," marveled clerk Raymond Rosario, 41. "I don't know how, but they leave them on the trains."

Melissa Gissentanner, the unit's manager, said the MTA takes pride in getting items back to their owners, boasting a 60 percent return rate. "We are the most successful lost and found in the country and possibly the world," she said.

People looking for their property can submit a report online. Items that go unclaimed are sometimes donated or eventually sold. Bonner says an asset recovery unit takes unclaimed cellphones and other items that are sold to companies or put on the MTA website for an auction.

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