NYC’s last phone booths are all on the Upper West Side. There are only four remaining, and they’re also all located on West End Avenue (h/t NY1).
Once a staple of the City That Never Sleeps, the ubiquity of smartphones in our modern age has significantly declined the need for a simple payphone booth. One by one over the last few decades, these street phones have disappeared from the sidewalks of Manhattan. Many remained, however, until 2014, when the LinkNYC initiative converted all but four of the phone booths in Manhattan into modern combination wifi and phone stations. The four that remain are all on West End Avenue, on 66th, 90th, 100th, and 101st Streets.
While it’s hard to argue for their need, they do make cool centerpieces for flower art.
Following trends across the country, the number of pay phones dropped by over 80% from the late nineties to the early 2010s, from tens of thousands of pay phones in greater New York City in 1999 to a little over nine thousand by 2014. A group of thirteen companies contracted to maintain and manage the pay phones would end their contract in late 2014, at which time there wasn’t a set plan for New York pay phones’ future.
In April of 2014, the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DOITT) requested information on how to convert the existing pay phones into a giant wi-fi network for the city. The winner, a telecom consortium named CityBridge, won, and named its stations “Links”, with the wifi name LinkNYC, and thus the LinkNYC project was born.
According to the LinkNYC website, advertising on these kiosks will bring over one billion dollars in profit to the developers, and 500 million dollars in revenue to the city of New York, over a twelve year period. This advertising keeps the kiosks phone and wifi features completely free to New Yorkers.
The Last Four
However, many New Yorkers feel that the original style of pay phones is a part of the city’s heritage. In response, the LinkNYC project decided to preserve four pay phones on West End, with a twist. These pay phones, like the Link kiosks, are free, requiring no change to operate, for all calls in the United States. However, they can’t receive phone calls, only make outbound calls. But if your iPhone battery is in the red, and you’re on the west side of west end, you’ll always be within walking distance of a good old-fashioned phone.
Featured images c/o Google Street View