There was an unsanctioned “man cave” under Grand Central Terminal Platform

Sept. 25, 2020
While the MTA Inspector General said commandeering a secret room took “chutzpah,” the man cave used by three Metro-North employees posed a safety and security risk.

The story of Room #14 in Grand Central Terminal is a bewildering one: A trio of Metro-North Railroad employees converted a room within a room located under the station’s platform into a secret chill zone. The room was found with a futon couch, large flat-screen television with a streaming device, air conditioning, refrigerator, microwave, workout equipment, hide-away beds and more.

The “unauthorized break room” was discovered by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) when it was investigating an anonymous complaint about the room being used by three Metro-North Railroad employees to “hang out and get drunk and party.”

“Many a New Yorker has fantasized about kicking back with a cold beer in a prime piece of Manhattan real estate – especially one this close to good transportation,” said MTA Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny. “But few would have the chutzpah to commandeer a secret room beneath Grand Central Terminal and make it their very own man-cave, sustained with MTA resources and maintained at our riders’ expense.”

The three Metro-North employees denied they had access to the unauthorized break room, which was an interior room located behind a locked door within a storage room beneath Track 114 at Grand Central Terminal.

A report on the MTA OIG investigation said personal property and evidence implicated the three employees – identified as a wireman, a carpenter foreman and an electrical foreman. The evidence included: a receipt with the wireman’s name on it and the streaming device connected to a hotspot associated with the carpenter foreman’s phone. In addition, two personal calendars and a pull-up bar featured a shipping sticker with the electrical foreman’s name. The streaming device was registered to the electrical foreman, as well.

The three employees have been suspended without pay and served with disciplinary charges.

In addition to the disciplinary charges that were recommended, MTA OIG made a recommendation to the Grand Central Terminal (GCT) Administration Department, whose managers were not aware of Room #14’s existence nor were they aware of which employees were in possession of keys to the storage room.

The MTA OIG recommends: The Grand Central Terminal Administration Department should accurately identify, record and track the location of the rooms and access to these rooms by its employees.

A recommendation was also made to Metro-North Railroad (MNR) Security Department, which MTA OIG’s investigation determined fumbled follow up of an earlier complaint about the room and had no formal method to track complaints referred from the Metro-North Railroad President’s Office.

The MTA OIG recommends: The Metro-North Railroad Security Department should formalize how it tracks complaints referred from the Metro-North Railroad President’s Office.

In a response to the MTA OIG report, Metro-North noted that as of Sept. 3, the railroad was developing a plan to accurately identify, record and track the location of GCT rooms and access to those rooms. Additionally, the railroad’s security department has begun using an electronic tracking system for tracking complaints received from the Metro-North Railroad President’s office.

New York City Transit’s Special Investigations and Review Unit has started its own independent review of the situation.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.