Payphones Enjoy A Resurgence of Relevance, Post-Sandy

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The payphone, which seemed to turn into a bit of a relic in the cell-phone age, is getting a modern day make-over.

Matthew Flamm, senior reporter for Crain's who's been writing about payphones recently, says Sandy made people realize the value of the copper line.

"People were finding that the only way to communicate after the storm in neighborhoods that were really hit hard after the storm in lower Manhattan, was the payphone," he explained, "which a lot of people had probably  never used before in their lives."

Pay phone franchise agreements dating from 1999 are set to expire, and the city is exploring new contracts and looking at new kinds of phones. The various visions for the payphone of the future all include Wi-Fi, and many have options such as touch-screen capacity. 

The phones might be free as well, according to Flamm.

But the phone booth of old — the one Clark Kent would run into and Superman would emerge from — will be swapped out in favor of a two-sided single panel, which would function like a work station with a place to recharge electronics, touch-screen maps and public service messages and ads. 

The phones might be free as well, he says. The phone booth, however, will remain a relic. Instead the phones will be on a two-sided panel. So, where will Superman change his clothes?

But as Flamm remarked "Superman had to find a new place long ago."

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to Matthew Flamm  as Matthew Blamm. We apologize for the error.