A secret “man cave” with a futon, refrigerator, a flat screen TV, hide-away beds, and streaming TV service was discovered in the bowels of Grand Central Terminal last year. MTA Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny released details of the unauthorized retreat in a report that criticized Metro-North’s lack of initiative in investigating earlier tips about the room.
Metro-North has suspended three employees without pay, pending resolution of their disciplinary charges.
The “man cave” was located under Track 114 in “an interior room behind a locked door within a storage room,” according to the Inspector General’s office. According to the report, there was bureaucracy to even gain access to the room:
On August 8, 2019, at approximately 6 p.m., the OIG met the MNR Security Manager for GCT, at a room designated as “CPRR #14” (Room #14) located at the lower level of the north end of track 114 to check for the room described in both complaints. The MNR Security Manager for GCT’s master key did not work for Room #14, so he summoned the supervisor of the locksmith shop (the Supervisor).
The Supervisor, who is not a licensed locksmith, explained that he did not have a key to Room #14 because GCT Administration limited room access to licensed locksmiths because it was a locksmith storage room. The Supervisor then called a locksmith and left to return to his duties until a locksmith arrived. About 3 1/2 hours later (around 9:30 p.m.), the Supervisor returned when an off-duty locksmith reported to Room #14 with his foreman and opened the door. The outer room contained locksmith supplies. Inside the same room, there was an interior room with a locked door. On the door was a handwritten sign which read “foreman’s office.” The locksmith, the foreman, and the Supervisor denied having a key to the interior room—the Unauthorized Breakroom—so the locksmith had to change the cylinder to open the door.
The IG’s office had received a tip about the “man cave” with a “couch and flat screen t.v.” where three employees “hang out and get drunk and party.” in February 2019 and referred it to Metro-North to investigate. But the office received another tip in June 2019 and moved to investigate themselves. After entering the room, investigations found the room “furnished exactly as described in the 2 complaints.”
There was a wall-mounted flat screen television connected to a streaming device and a cabinet just below the television that appeared to be constructed to conceal the television. There was a futon couch and a second cabinet that appeared to have been designed to conceal the futon. There was a refrigerator and a microwave. There was a half-consumed beer in the refrigerator and an empty can in the garbage.
The refrigerator appears to be MNR property, because GCT Administration mangers confirmed that the refrigerator was the type purchased by MNR for use in GCT. The OIG also found an air mattress in its original box with a sales receipt and a clear plastic bag filled with sheets and a comforter. Just outside the Unauthorized Breakroom, there was a cabinet in the exterior locksmith shop storage area that concealed a pullout cot.
Three people, a wireman, a carpenter foreman, and an electrical foreman, used the room, the IG’s office said. The investigation found a receipt for the air mattress with the wireman’s name on it; a network setting connection between the TV and the carpenter foreman’s phone; and two datebooks and a pull-up bar (which “featured a shipping sticker with [his] name”), plus a streaming device, linked to the electrical foreman. The carpenter foreman and electrical foreman both denied they used the room, claiming the items found there were stolen, but the wireman did admit the three of them used the room before recanting his statement.
“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,” Pokorny said in a statement. “But few would have the chutzpah to commandeer a secret room beneath Grand Central Terminal & make it their very own man-cave, sustained with MTA resources, and maintained at our riders’ expense.”
The room was deemed a fire hazard by the IG’s office, given how difficult it was to access. Her report also said Metro-North did not have a formal way of tracking complaints and investigations and recommended the agency develop a process. Metro-North accepted that recommendation and is also conducting their own investigation.
The MTA is also mapping out all rooms in Grand Central Terminal.
With reporting from Stephen Nessen