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New York City Removes Last Payphone – Or Does It?

A technological change is taking place in the Big Apple.

By:  |  June 13, 2022  |    610 Words
nyc payphone

(Getty Images)

The payphone – once the only option for stranded motorists, the way people could get in touch when out in public, and the changing room for Clark Kent’s transformation into Superman – is now becoming a thing of the past. In a special ceremony, New York City removed the last known payphone from service just days ago – or did it? The city says the phone booths are being replaced with kiosks that allow users to make phone calls, access the internet, and charge their devices. These new huts will be known as LinkNYC.

No More Need for Payphones?

new york payphone

(Photo by Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images)

Due to technology like cell phones and e-mail, the communication game has changed. Why keep booths on the streets when nearly every person can communicate with a device they carry in their pocket? On the other hand, those who don’t own a cell phone may be forced to miss out. The Big Apple began removing public phones from service in 2015 and started putting the LinkNYC kiosks in their place. At this point, there are nearly 2,000 kiosks in service throughout the city.

Matthew Fraser, Commissioner of the Office of Technology and Innovation, agreed to remove the iconic booths, but was a bit reluctant.

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He said, “As a native New Yorker, saying goodbye to the last street pay phone is bittersweet because of the prominent place they’ve held in the city’s physical landscape for decades. 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.”

While the city makes efforts to keep up with the times, what will become of the old phone booths?

technology phone

A woman uses a LinkNYC kiosk to access the internet via her smartphone in New York. (Photo by Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images)

Where Have All the Payphones Gone?

While many of the boxy booths were likely destroyed, the final payphone, once found at 745 7th Avenue, will be displayed at the Museum of the City of New York. It will be placed in the “Analog City” exhibit. Tourists and locals can visit the museum and take a walk down the technological memory lane to remember or learn how people once communicated before the internet and cell phones took us by storm.

Hold the Phone!

But is it true that the city removed its last payphone – as it claims? A man named Mark Thomas is arguing that not all public NYC payphones are out of service. Thomas claims that there are several booths in the city that can still be used. He set out to prove this theory and found several phones to try to make calls.

His first call was to the Office of Technology and Innovation, where the woman who answered claimed that all the booths were removed, except four. She said the ceremony was held to mark the end of an era, and that the focus should not be on whether the last public phone was actually removed. Thomas made calls from several booths, proving that not all the phones were taken out of service.

It is difficult to know why the NYC officials would claim that the booth removed during the ceremony was the last, but it does not take away from the fact that payphones are history, and cell phones LinkNYC kiosks are taking over the city.

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