Is There a Pay Phone Near Me in New York City?
Municipal officials on Monday removed New York City’s final public payphone, an anachronism from analog times. Only four full-height booths, known as Superman booths, remain, though their doors feature simple hinged panels without frames for protection.
Since 2015, New York City has replaced street payphones with LinkNYC kiosks, which look like digital billboards but provide free high-speed WiFi, charging stations for mobile devices, and domestic phone calls.
Payphones in New York City
Chances are, if you live in New York City, chances are you have never used a pay phone. As we transition into the digital world, these relics from analog days are becoming less frequent; on Monday, municipal officials removed the last city-owned payphone in Midtown Manhattan – “saying goodbye is bittersweet due to their prominent place within cityscape over decades,” stated the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation statement.
Since 2015, New York City has gradually replaced public payphones with LinkNYC kiosks that provide free public Wi-Fi, phone calls, and access to information on services, maps, and the city itself. They’re also capable of charging mobile devices!
Contrary to what some may believe, this doesn’t spell the end for pay phones in New York City. There are still a handful of private, non-public payphones in operation around the city, including four full-length Superman booths on the Upper West Side. And unlike expected, LinkNYC’s last public payphone won’t end up in landfill; according to Gothamist reports, the Museum of the City of New York approached LinkNYC asking if they could take it for an exhibit about life before computers.
LinkNYC team carefully removed it from its double kiosk shell before carefully building a custom shelf and backing for support. They encased it with protective glass so it will always remain protected from modern city dwellers – from finance workers to bike messengers- who would use this phone in its prime, according to the curator of MCNY. “Now the public will have an opportunity to experience what NYC was like before computers.”
Experience an old-fashioned pay phone up close at the Museum of the City of New York through June 30. As part of their exhibition “Analog City: NYC B.C.” (Before Computers), other exhibits explore urban design, architecture, and history in all five boroughs of NYC.
Payphones in Times Square
Pay phones were once ubiquitous throughout NYC. A glance today shows they’ve almost completely vanished, not because people no longer require telephone service – just that, more often than not, they prefer using their phones for this task.
Since 2015, New York City has been transitioning away from public payphones and gradually replacing them with LinkNYC kiosks that provide free WiFi, device charging and domestic calling, and tablet access to City Services Directory information and maps. These kiosks include digital billboards to advertise products or announce public service announcements.
CityBridge, an alliance of tech, media, and other businesses operating the kiosks known as LinkNYC kiosks and most outdoor payphones across New York City, held exclusive control over LinkNYC kiosks as well as most payphones – so it should come as no surprise that its final public payphone was removed on Monday.
Cranes lifted a booth from Times Square’s Seventh Avenue and West 50th Street sidewalk and held a small ceremony to mark its removal as part of a city initiative to modernize technology. A city official told 1010WINS that this booth’s removal is part of their plan to modernize technology within their municipality.
Before smartphones, New Yorkers used pay phones as a vital connection point with loved ones, reporting crime or seeking aid during times of need. These iconic booths symbolized ingenuity in New York and helped keep residents connected. Their departure has been met with mixed responses; while some see it as a sign of change, others lament their loss as a sign of nostalgia.
Some view the removal of Midtown Manhattan’s final public payphone as the end of an era, to be replaced by a LinkNYC kiosk – but its legacy won’t fade into oblivion – instead being donated to the Museum of the City of New York to become part of an exhibit called Analog City: NYC B.C (Before Computers).
Though New York may have said farewell to its last public payphone, these iconic coin-operated booths remain operational on private property or have been renovated and sold to new owners, extending their lives beyond what would have otherwise been their initial lifespan.
Payphones in Midtown
On Monday afternoon, after years of pay phones lining city sidewalks, the final one was removed from a Midtown Manhattan corner and taken to the Museum of the City of New York, where it will be part of an exhibit called “Analog City: NYC B.C.” (which stands for New York Before Computers).
Removing the last public payphone marks an essential milestone in an eight-year-long process begun under Mayors Bloomberg and de Blasio. Under their administrations, a competitive bid was launched to find ways to reimagine 13,000 payphones that were dispersed throughout New York’s five boroughs; CityBridge’s winning proposal suggested replacing them with LinkNYC kiosks that can offer free Wi-Fi, charging stations, social services directories, maps, transit updates, weather updates as well as domestic calls without charge – or replace them altogether with local calls made accessible from local payphones – giving residents one-stop shopping experience for all of life’s needs!
Starting in 2015, New York City began to replacing outdated payphones with digital kiosks as they became obsolete. Although this process took years to complete, by this month’s end, the final public payphone will have been removed from Seventh Avenue and 50th Street and acquired by a museum as a piece of art rather than a communication tool.
LinkNYC kiosks will soon receive a 5G upgrade to improve their capabilities, and the city’s Office of Technology and Innovation plans on expanding service to areas that require it, including outer boroughs, communities above 96th Street in Manhattan, and places without internet access.
Until then, if you want a trip back to an era of rotary phones and paper maps, head to Times Square, where the last working payphone in NYC resides – though some locals may object to how it has been treated.
Payphones in Hell’s Kitchen
Last year, it appeared that New York City’s previous pay phone was being disconnected and carted away, sparking headlines and online videos proclaiming this to be its demise. While many in our plugged-in culture may view pay phones as antique remnants from simpler times, these payphones remain alive and valuable tools if you need to make calls without accessing an internet connection or need hands-free conversation without holding onto your device during discussions – knowing where the nearest working payphones is very useful!
Hell’s Kitchen Payphone (pictured above) has been taken off the streets and placed into an exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York’s Analog City exhibit, as reported by Gothamist. This booth will give visitors an insider peek into technology before cell phones and digital devices took over New York – as stated by Gothamist – the Museum says this booth “will provide visitors with an eyewitness account into its evolution before modernity.”
In March, New York Council Speaker Corey Johnson petitioned the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications–which oversees CityBridge’s monopoly franchise on public payphones–to remove numerous payphones in his district. As reported by NBC New York, DoITT agreed to release 30 payphones on 9th Avenue between Hell’s Kitchen and 57th Street, starting in Hell’s Kitchen and going all the way up until 57th Street; these will be replaced by LinkNYC kiosks, which provide public Wi-Fi connectivity as well as charging ports, charging ports, 911 buttons as well as public phone service features.
While payphones have been removed from NYC sidewalks, a few still exist – including Union Square Station’s phone booth that still operates and one on Restaurant Row that occasionally sees use. For an unforgettable nostalgia trip, visit the Brooklyn Historical Society for its impressive collection of classic telephones (not just pay phones!). In particular, their vintage handsets and receivers make for fascinating viewing.