What's In Store For Those Old Payphone Kiosks?

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

(Daniel P. Tucker/WNYC)

The current contract to service NYC's payphones expires this October. Jay Cassano, senior writer at Fast Company Labs, talks about the various
proposals being floated to re-purpose the old kiosks (free wi-fi anyone?), and takes your calls with your ideas for how these phone booths should be re-purposed.


Jay Cassano

Comments [26]

David from Staten Island

I'm reminded of sitting on the ferry at the terminal early one morning in September of 2001. One tower was on fire and a plane flew over our heads and across the harbor and crashed into the second tower. Every person's cell phone came out and went up to their heads. Nothing.

I'm reminded of a storm surge one October some years later and a petulant mayor insisting at a press conference that the city had done its job just fine by telling people to go to some web site or call some emergency number. What's that you say? No internet? No cell service? To quote Ralph Wiggam, "That unpossible".

During both these disasters I was happy to be one of those people who keeps a land line running on the common battery system. I was just as glad my parents upstate had such an anachronistic device during and after Irene.

Keep the phones and keep them working. One day we'll need them. As any IT specialist will tell you, you can never have enough redundancy. In the meanwhile, if I need to use my cell phone on the street I usually duck into one of those kiosks so I'm not in other peoples' way (I know, who does that?) and think that's a fine use for them.

Aug. 06 2014 10:29 PM
Phoner from New York, NY

Conventional metallic copper analog landlines have for 100+ years been powered centrally from respective phone companies facilities. In telephony lingo, this is known as the Common Battery system and is time-proven, tried-and-true, to be highly reliable even when electricity (and mobile cellular) services fail -- provided Verizon and/or other utilities maintain the infrastructure, which is barely the case at present. Where is the reporting on this aspect of proposed changes?!

Aug. 06 2014 06:15 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

das187 from NYC,

I went to PS 94, JHS 80 and Clinton.

Aug. 06 2014 01:54 PM
Street Computers from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

With payphones gone, will the NYFD fire alarm call boxes be next?

Not everyone has a cellphone with a charged battery.

What happens when there is a Blackout?

The land lines work when there is a Blackout because Verizon generates its own power.

This is more bad news due to short sightedness and MONEY.

Aug. 06 2014 01:47 PM

Keep some functioning as pay phones, while equip others with a punching boxing glove, for those who have cell phones and want to be punched in the face for the price of a quarter.

Aug. 06 2014 11:49 AM
das187 from NYC

Cell phone charging stations?? (What would Post say about all this? Probably nothing. He probably wouldn't bother listening....) Can't those people just carry an extra battery around? Or a little charger, duck into a Starbucks and charge it there?
No, these things should probably go the way of the old 3rd Avenue "L" (yes I remember that being torn down, right to those remnants in the Bronx -- sorry, I'm in a Steve Post state of mind, always have been). Weren't the remains of the 3rd Avenue "L" sold off to the Japanese car companies back in the late '70s and turned into those early '80s Hondas and Toyotas and Datsuns that naturally rusted out from the bottom up (lousy steel)?
Why not find some sucker to BUY these phone kiosks to melt down for re-use the same way?
BUT -- leave one for the Smithsonian. (If one more caller says "Hi Brian, LOVE YOUR SHOW, ALWAYS LISTEN...." I think I'll put 18" needles through my eyes. OBVIOUSLY they love the show and always listen -- why else would they be calling???!!!!)
(Sorry. We folks from the Bronx, especially Mosholu Pkway like Post, tend to respond with negative sarcasm. It's always late afternoon in the Bronx. Time for Andy Lanset to get his Steve Post archives in order -- and stop wearing that same sweater he's been wearing since college.)

Aug. 06 2014 11:43 AM
Betsy from NYC

Hi Amy,
Thanks for making your acquaintance and for posting this. The entire network depends on slave labor etc. If anyone really looked into it, I don't know how people could be proud of their gadgets!

Aug. 06 2014 11:43 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Betsy, check out CREDO ( & Earth Tones ( mobile phones. Some of the cell phones they offer are eco-friendly (made w/some recycled/recyclable materials) &/or refurbished. Those aren't available all the time, though--I've had to wait to order them sometimes. And some phones are low-cost or even free w/2-year plan. The companies also have green policies.

Aug. 06 2014 11:37 AM

What about digital info about environmental conditions locally ie air quality, noise level, huminidty
Also info on city conditions..... And announcements for the specific area ie missing persons , street repair and local meetings

Aug. 06 2014 11:25 AM
manish from Bronx

The city needs public restrooms. Can google come up with a uber cool and clean new approach to that?

Aug. 06 2014 11:23 AM
tom from licity

"free Spacers" While on the outside there are many phone charging slots, the inside could be a free space to re organize yourself'' a flat surface to put down your iPad or paper tablet and pen, a slot for coffee cup… all spaces are slanted now so we desperately need a simple unoccupied flat space

Aug. 06 2014 11:21 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Brian, you must live close to a subway station. I agree w/the caller who advocated Metrocard charging machines--not only for people who live a long bus ride away from the nearest subway station but for people w/disabilities who live a long way from the nearest accessible one. And if you don't have a full fare & use your card on a bus, it takes the money you *do* have on it, you have to pay the rest in cash, & it doesn't put a transfer on the card. Drivers will offer a transfer, but it's only good for another bus--if you need to transfer to the subway, you're out another fare.

Aug. 06 2014 11:21 AM
Andrea from Philadelphia

Vending machines for healthy snacks/beverages as alternative to fast food places, particularly in food desert neighborhoods and expensive touristy locations like Times Square. I'm thinking about the wide range of food stuffs you can get from vending machines in Japan.

Aug. 06 2014 11:21 AM
alice from manhattan

Not everyone in the city has a mobile phone. Discontinuing access penalizes those of us who will only have access to telephone service when in their home.

Aug. 06 2014 11:20 AM
Roman from Brooklyn

One of my concerns for charging stations would be the ability to infect the cell phones or other devices, since most of them are charged via the USB port. I'm sure someone would be able to distribute some sort of malware through them.

Aug. 06 2014 11:20 AM
Tatiana Lam from Astoria

In Japan they've been turned into really gorgeous aquariums!

Aug. 06 2014 11:19 AM

LOOKOUT! If an energy utility, or group of investors, buys them for a song, make sure that the airspace is not included. In many parts of the country energy companies like PSEG rent or own so-called telephone poles, which today also host a junkpile of wires, telecom dishes and solar panels.

Aug. 06 2014 11:18 AM
Capper from NYC

Keep some of the old school phones, but others could be made into cell phone juice stations.

AND, a great idea--- they can be 311 stations. To communicate your concerns to the City Government.

Aug. 06 2014 11:15 AM
Betsy from NYC

I need those phones.
I will never get a cell phone - aside from the monetary cost, the cost to human, animal and earth life is devastating - look up coltan, look up bush meat - the mining, manufacturing and the demanufacturing toxicities are overwhelmingly horrendous. I don't understand how any activist can support any portable devise.

Aug. 06 2014 11:12 AM
C'est moi! from Nouvelle York

Convert them to public pissoirs. This way those public urinators won't be seen. Perhaps deodorize them too.

Aug. 06 2014 11:10 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

I second, third and fourth the motion to keep some pay phones around. There are people who have no phones or whose cell phone batteries have died (mostly from listening to music and playing bejeweled) and tourists who don't have SIM cards for local carriers and they need phones.

As for cabbies who use pay phone booths as bathrooms, we most certainly have the technology to put some kind of DNA collecting mat down that is triggered by the moisture. Once the DNA is analyzed and matched up with cab drivers, they get fined $5,000 and have to do 5,000 hours of community service cleaning pay phone booths. "Let the punishment fit the crime."

Aug. 06 2014 10:59 AM

How about making sure that there is a comm link for those who don't have cell phones.

Emergency access to 911 & other needs to make calls when away from one's land line for other needs should be part of the plan.

Aug. 06 2014 10:09 AM
Steve from Rockville Centre, NY

Make them in to a network of libraries.
Or each could house art.
or Street-side confessionals?

Aug. 06 2014 10:07 AM
No Free Lunch from Superman's Changing Booth

Free WiFi is a hacker's idea of paradise.
Passwords, ID, account info -- it's a gift that keeps on giving.

Aug. 06 2014 09:32 AM
Walter from Across the Hudson

Many years ago - just as cell phones were beginning to take hold - I witnessed an enlightening incident while eating a hamburger at Chelsea Commons at 10th and 24th: cabbie pulls up with emergency flashers on, goes to phone and removes receiver, pretends to talk but proceeds to urinate. Saw it happen again and again after that - apparently a common practice among cab drivers.

Aug. 06 2014 08:55 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Turn the payphones into ultra modern compact apartments.

Think PayphoneBnB.

Aug. 06 2014 06:37 AM

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