Although you won’t see the currency being printed—that function was moved from this site to New Jersey in 1992—you will likely see more lucre than you ever will again in your lifetime when you descend 80 feet to the basement of this financial fortress, where a gold vault right out of Mission Impossible is housed. Down here, behind a door that’s a good 5 feet thick, the Fed keeps $100,000 billion worth of gold bars, a full 25% of all the gold reserves in the world, and far more than is housed in Fort Knox. Ninety-five percent of the gold stored here belongs to foreign nations, who use this facility, embedded in the bedrock of Manhattan and guarded by a small army of marksmen (they have their own on-site firing range for practice), because it’s considered the safest place in the world for this type of storage. I wish I could give you more details, but the security here is so spandex-tight that my reporter’s notebook was confiscated at the door.
The gold is supplemented by precious coins (one worth $7 million), in an exhibit in the lobby by the Numismatic Society in partnership with the Fed. Also featured are brief videotapes detailing the work of the Fed, and an interactive exhibit explaining what the massive, semi-governmental agency does (it’s an interesting topic). The entire tour takes a bit less than an hour.
- Pauline Frommer