Tunnel Vision

Dentures, Trumpets, and Prosthetic Limbs: Inside the Subway’s Lost and Found

VICE got a rare look at all the bizarre things New Yorkers leave behind on the city's subways.

by John Surico; photos by Jason Bergman
Jul 13 2018, 5:41pm

Every hour, the New York City Transit (NYCT) division of the MTA refreshes its ‘Current Lost Property’ data set online. In total, the authority’s Lost Property Unit had found 277,233 lost articles as of the evening of July 11, 2018. In a system in which 5.7 million strangers hurriedly cram themselves into tiny metal boxes each day, those numbers shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. And of course, the most common items are what you’d think, and have maybe even lost yourself: MetroCards (55,151); cell phones (50,891); wallets (49,498); debit cards (46,299); drivers licenses (21,561); and house keys (13,296).

But there’s also some other things you wouldn’t expect. According to the MTA’s data set, as of Wednesday inside the Lost and Found were 7,584 pants, trousers, and shorts; 96 trumpets; 9 answering machines; 27 death certificates; 91 insulin pumps; and 21 Tefillin, the leather boxes that Orthodox Jewish men strap onto their heads. If you want to see the entire list you can search to your heart’s desire here. (Keep in mind this includes NYCT’s other entities, including the buses, and the Staten Island Railway.)

To see what this treasure trove of transit paraphernalia actually looks like, VICE sent photographer Jason Bergman on a recent weekday afternoon to the headquarters of the NYCT Lost Property Unit, which is located in a small room deep inside the cavernous Penn Station. The unit will soon be overhauled in order to make the pick-up process smoother and more efficient, in accordance with the agency’s Fast Forward plan. This is likely the last snapshot of this New York sanctuary before it looks significantly different.