Dreams do come true — but sometimes, they also get you in deep shit.
A trio of almost-clever Metro-North employees are at risk of losing their jobs after bosses at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority uncovered their secret “man cave” deep in the bowels of New York City’s Grand Central Station, according to a newly released report by the MTA’s Office of the Inspector General. Not only was the totally sweet man cave a secret, most people didn’t even know the room they set it up in existed.
Like any good man cave, the Metro-North workers equipped their “Unauthorised Breakroom” with a hideaway futon and cot, air mattress, refrigerator (containing a half-empty can of beer), microwave, and a flatscreen with an Amazon Fire TV, the OIG said in its report. It also featured — if you zoom in on the makeshift TV stand above — what appears to be a drawing of a stick figure with an erect penis next to a dog. Beyond the simple pleasures of beer and naps, these were clearly connoisseurs of life’s finer things.
The employees accused of setting up the man cave — identified only as a wireman, an electrical foreman, and a carpenter foreman — used the space to “hang out and get drunk and party,” according to a complaint received by the MTA, which is the only thing you’re allowed to do in a secret underground man cave, as decreed by the Brotherhood of Great Ideas That Definitely Won’t Get Us Fired.
All of this was tucked inside a locked storage room that was only accessible through the locksmith shop located at the end of Grand Central’s track 114, and nobody seemed to have the key when the bosses finally discovered the room. They eventually had to break in by completely replacing the lock.
The saga of the secret man cave dates back to February 2019 when an anonymous snitch ratted everybody out. (Notably, the anonymous complaint about the room came around the same time as a disciplinary hearing of a Grand Central electrician “who was accused of workplace violence against the Electrical Foreman,” according to the inspector general’s report. A transcript of the hearing shows that someone — we don’t know who — revealed the presence of the room, which the person described as “a little apartment. He has a big screen in there. It used to be an old locksmith storage area.”) Another complaint — the “get drunk and party” one — was filed in June 2019. Both complaints and the transcript were ignored until the OIG got involved.
What followed after the bosses discovered the man cave was a flurry of denials and arse-covering. But none of it worked ‘cause the bosses had the receipts — quite literally, in the case of the wireman, whose name was printed on the receipt for the air mattress, which was still in the box. The other two were just as careless, according to the OIG: “The television had a list of network setting connections, 1 of which was to the hot spot from the Carpenter Foreman’s smart phone. The OIG found 2 datebooks and a pull-up bar bearing the name of the Electrical Foreman and the streaming device was registered to the Electrical Foreman.” Oops.
The trio was eventually put on administrative leave without pay and are at risk of termination because the room was found to be a safety risk, and apparently it’s against MTA policy to set up a secret room and drink while you’re working. The MTA is also overhauling its complaint-tracking process, which allowed the complaints about the man cave to go ignored. And they’re now undergoing an effort to map the labyrinth that is Grand Central Station’s vast underbelly.
Secret areas are just a part of Grand Central. Deep below the train station is a bunker called M-42. Rumour has it that during World War II, “the bunker had guards with shoot-to-kill orders, for fear of sabotage while the station’s trains were being used to ferry troops into and out of New York,” Time wrote. Then there’s Track 61 — an entirely secret train track that was used exclusively by rich people which led straight to the lavish Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. The secret track was most famously used by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was trying to hide the paraplegia that resulted from him contracting polio.
As with these other once-secret spaces at Grand Central, the worker’s man cave is now wide out in the open. What will happen to the man cave now is anyone’s guess, but knowing the MTA, it’ll probably become a rat-infested hellhole like everything else.