Grand Central Terminal is a very different place today compared to the 80’s and 90’s. The terminal is turning 100 years old next week.
The world’s most beautiful and busiest train terminal turns 100 next week, the beginning of a year-long centennial celebration that includes musical tributes, a rededication ceremony and a six-week exhibit chronicling its history.
Without the efforts of MTA Sergeant Bryan Henry it would not be possible to have such a fine tribute in the terminal. Here is how things appeared back in 1989 when Sgt Henry started out as a social worker with a badge and a gun:
“City agencies were bringing vans full of homeless people to Grand Central,” he said, noting The city that year had 1,905 murders that year, four times higher than last year’s 414.
Some lived in what is now Vanderbilt Hall — which in those days were full of benches.
Others lived in hollow spaces underneath the platforms a dangerous situation that often resulted in track fires so bad that they were making trains late.
The MTA — in the beginning stages of planning the station’s $250 million renovation — wanted someone to focus their energy on getting the homeless out.
Henry, a practicing Buddhist, volunteered for the job.
He counted about 400 people who used it as their home base.
“These were people I saw every day,” he said.
Then he set out to get to know all of them.
He matched drunks with programs for alcoholics, found crack addicts treatment plans and helped the impoverished navigate the confusing maze of social services that could get them off the street.
“One woman, I enticed her with coffee and donuts,” he said.
The Grand Central Terminal station is full of secrets large and small:
The hole in the ceiling is from a NASA rocket on display in the terminal that did not quite fit.
The mistake on the boards is that all the listings are one minute earlier than when the train actually departs.
The one-inch mistake is that the east staircases, built much later, are an inch smaller than the western staircase, so future historians will know they were not part of the original building.
The bigger mistake is the October zodiac constellation, which is perfect in every way except it is completely backwards.
The valuable jewel is the 1930 clock inside the information booth in the terminal’s concourse.
“Every face of that four-face clock is made out of one solid piece of precious opal,” Bruckner says.