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Happy reunion with iPhone trapped in LIRR seat

Anthony Diaz with the iPhone 5S that the

Anthony Diaz with the iPhone 5S that the LIRR recovered by taking apart a train seat. Credit: Newsday / Judy Cartwright

Anthony Diaz' smartphone wasn't lost, exactly. He knew where to find the new iPhone 5S: It was trapped in an inaccessible spot on the Long Island Rail Road car that he rode home to Bethpage. Specifically, Car 7262.

But in the days that followed, his efforts to retrieve the device weren't getting results. Here's his account:

"On 10/4 I was riding a 6:21 train from Penn Station when my week-old iPhone 5S slid off my book bag and onto the side of my seat," he wrote in an email. "This particular seat had a metal bracket that attached the chair to the wall, and unfortunately that is where the phone fell and was unreachable."

He notified a conductor, who removed the seat cushion. But the phone remained beyond their reach. The conductor told Diaz that a maintenance crew would need to take apart the seat.

Diaz understood that the work would be done when the train reached Ronkonkoma, the final destination. "He assured me he would call the incident in to the Ronkonkoma station and once the phone was retrieved, it would be sent to Lost & Found," he said.

That was on a Friday. In the days to follow, Diaz would fill out a form on the MTA website and check in frequently with the Lost & Found office at Penn Station. A few days later, someone in Lost & Found suggested he try Customer Service. He did so the next day, but this time he was told he was "out of luck because 'no one is going to take a seat apart for a phone.' "

Diaz was stunned but not daunted. He continued to make calls to other LIRR offices and, 10 days after the phone slipped away, he contacted Watchdog. That was on Oct. 14.

It took nine more days.

"The phone was recovered and [is] on its way to the Lost & Found office in Penn and the customer should have been called this morning," MTA spokeswoman Meredith Daniels wrote in an email on Wednesday. The retrieval required removing the seat bracket, she said.

The notification from Daniels was the second we received. Diaz had already sent a note with the news: "I received a call from the LIRR today saying they had it [the phone]." He had already picked it up.

We had taken his case to the LIRR to ask if it's crazy to think a seat could be taken apart to retrieve a trapped phone. Turns out it wasn't crazy.


Recently, crosswalks in Port Jefferson and Port Jefferson Station were reconfigured to make them handicap-accessible -- a great idea that was a long time coming -- and sidewalks were added in some sections. But along part of Hallock Avenue, mailboxes wound up in the middle of the walkway and utility poles are blocking the crosswalks.

-- Henry Parkinson, Wading River

The new sidewalks on the north side of Hallock Avenue do make for an unusual landscape: A line of mailboxes appears to be positioned smack in the middle of the concrete. Parkinson shared his concern that the project has not addressed the needs of people with disabilities and expressed doubt that a family member who relies on a wheelchair could negotiate that route.

That was our impression, too, as we approached. But on closer inspection, the project design appears to have made an effort to be user-friendly.

At each mailbox or utility pole, the sidewalk has been extended in an arc. The width meets or exceeds the standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act so the design "should accommodate those with various disabilities," state Department of Transportation spokeswoman Eileen Peters said in an emailed statement. Hallock Avenue is a section of state Route 25A.

She said the sidewalk width "mostly ranges between 48 inches and 60 inches in all but one area," where it narrows to 36 inches because a post and fence abut it. The narrower width is permitted by ADA guidelines for distances less than 200 feet, she said.

"The new/repaired/upgraded sidewalks on NY Route 25A/Hallock Avenue in Port Jefferson were designed and installed on public property around the existing LIPA poles, mailboxes and manholes," she wrote.

USPS spokeswoman Christine Dugas told us the mailboxes appear to meet agency specifications: Each is positioned to leave sufficient room so a postal carrier in a van can reach out and open the box facing the street.


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