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New York City Transit's Lost Property Unit

On a scale of one to ten, a bride-to-be's loss of an engagement ring has to be right up there at the top. Losing it in the subway? Off the charts! But take heart, there are good people out there and NYC Transit has a top-notch team whose top priority is reuniting forgetful bus and subway customers with their lost belongings. And they are kept busy.

A young woman lost her ring in November on an N train in Brooklyn. Luckily, it was turned in to the station booth and sent to New York City Transit's Lost Property Unit.

The ring's owner used the Transit Lost and Found webpage to notify the unit of her loss and soon a match was made. The date, time, place and description (she even had a photo) all matched and she was happily reunited with her special ring. “That was a really happy ending,” said William Bonner, Supervisor of NYC Transit's Lost Property Unit.

Bonner oversees a staff of seven as they continually log in items and deal with sometimes, very distraught customers. But there have been a lot more happy customers, as Bonner and his team are finding more ways to get things back to their owners.

People seem to be losing more things; in 2011, the unit logged in 23,223 items. However in 2012, the staff took in 24,445 items. On the other hand, more items continue to be claimed. In 2011, 7,438 returns were made compared to 8,093 in 2012. Bonner credits the website with making returns easier and more efficient. People filled out 22,072 online claims forms in 2011 as opposed to 23,933 in 2012. Clearly customers are using the online forms to assist in the retrieval of their items.

Nowadays, electronics top the list of lost items – kindles, nooks, ipads, and smartphones are turned in daily. Any cash that is turned in is carefully counted, documented and banked. No money is kept at the Lost Property Unit. “Cellphones and wallets are plentiful,” said Bonner. “But with those items you can find a name or phone number and contact the owner directly. Other things are not so easy.”

For some unknown reason, empty animal carriers are turning up more and more on buses and subways. Bonner says, “Seems like people are taking the animals out and then walking off leaving the carrier under the seat.” Happily, so far, no animals have been left behind.

At the beginning of the school year, tons of backpacks with tons of textbooks were left on buses and subways by forgetful school children. If Bonner and his team can't find the child's name, they look for the school's name on the text books and contact the school. Kids won't get out of homework that easily.

Likewise, Bonner has a liaison with the Department of Education for forgotten musical instruments. But, privately owned instruments have to wait for their owners to file a claim. Many of the flutes, violins and trumpets that are turned in are held for a time and then auctioned off along with many of the other unclaimed items. Depending on their value, items are kept anywhere from three months to three years and then auctioned off in lots by Transit's Asset Recovery Unit.

If you lose something on a bus or subway, go to the New York City Bus and Subway page at www.mta.info and click on Lost and Found or follow simply click here and file a claim with as much information as possible. “Being as specific and detailed as you can in your description is key to the attempt to reunite you with your lost item,” said Bonner. Also, keep your reference number handy for tracking and claiming your item. And that will make for more happy endings.

The Transit's Lost Property Unit is located on the ACE line at 34th Street-Penn Station (8th Avenue) on the lower mezzanine. It is open Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The unit is closed Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.