The past decade has ushered in many monumental changes for NYC, including some parts of beloved “old New York” slowly fading away…and the most recent “end” comes with the last of the payphones in the city.
As cellphones took over, coin-operated payphones have become barely used. So, since 2014 in NYC they have been transforming into “LinkNYC” kiosks, which provide WiFi, cellphone charging stations and now rotating news and information screens.
Though most of the larger, actual payphone booths haven’t been seen in the city for a while, there were still many freestanding payphones about. And residents noticed—there was even a “Submit a Pay Phone Removal Request” online!
Back in March of 2020, most of these remaining payphones (which amounted to about 30) were actually removed, but today, May 23 the final remaining one was ripped out of the ground on 745 7th Avenue by The City of New York, and CityBridge (the consortium behind LinkNYC) in a ceremony open to the public.
And to really make you feel old, that last payphone will live on in the Museum of the City of New York, part of the newly installed exhibit called “Analog City.”
And so, we can officially say it’s the “end of the payphone era” in NYC (with the exception of private payphones on public property and four permanent full-length Superman booths). This summer, LinkNYC is further expanding their network by adding 5G service to more booths. Part of the expansion will bring additional service to more neighborhoods, “prioritizing equity areas with particular need, including the outer boroughs, Manhattan above 96th street, and communities that lack internet access,” a press release shares.
“As a native New Yorker, saying goodbye to the last street payphone is bittersweet because of the prominent place they’ve held in the city’s physical landscape for decades,” said Matthew Fraser, Commissioner of the Office of Technology and Innovation.
“Just like we transitioned from the horse and buggy to the automobile and from the automobile to the airplane, the digital evolution has progressed from payphones to high-speed Wi-Fi kiosks to meet the demands of our rapidly changing daily communications needs. The coming arrival of Link5G represents an exciting new development in this space and reaffirms the city’s commitment to make the latest tech available to all New Yorkers, as we work toward bridging the digital divide.”