HISTORY RIPPED ASUNDER: THE LAST 4 REMAINING PHONE BOOTHS IN NYC ARE BEING REPLACED

phone booth
Photos by Ernie Fritz.

Workers are dismantling the four remaining phone booths on West End Avenue — the four remaining booths in the entire city — and replacing them with shiny new phone booths.

It’s nice that the new booths are here. But it’s still hard to see the historical ones removed. And it’s not clear whether the new ones will be the same, and provide ample room for Clark Kent should he need to save the city or the world.

Sorry Superman. Go change in a Starbucks bathroom. And yes, you’ll have to wait for the kid with the tummy ache to go potty first.

CityBridge, the company that is upgrading more than 7,500 New York phone kiosks with wifi, was removing the phone booth (different from kiosks because they are full boxes with doors) on West End Avenue and 101st street on Wednesday when Ernie Fritz walked by and snapped these photos. Scott Goldsmith, the president of Intersection, a company that’s installing the wifi, told Ernie that they would also be replacing the other three remaining phone booths, all of which are on the Upper West Side. The blog Scouting NY reported in 2009 that, other than the one on 101st, there were also booths on 100th, 90th and 66th, all on West End. And those were the only ones left in Manhattan

“The walls actually keep out a good amount of sound, and it’s surreal to look out at the world around you with something you don’t usually get on a busy Manhattan avenue: personal space. It’s funny to think how the idea of an enclosed space to have a phone conversation now seems like an incredible luxury.”

When the LinkNYC project was announced, officials said the four booths would be preserved “for nostalgia’s sake.”

A spokesperson for CityBridge, which is managing the wifi spots and the phones, said these phone booths won’t have wifi. They wanted to upgrade them because the old ones were worse for wear. “CityBridge has committed to maintaining these four phone booths for the duration of its 12-year contract. These booths haven’t been refurbished in a long time and since they are the last outdoor walk-in phone booths in NY, CityBridge wanted to refresh them.”

Update: The Times’ Corey Kilgannon reports that the new booths were salvaged from a warehouse in Canada and refurbished. They will have phones that allow people to make free local phone calls as of a few days from now. He also notes that one of the UWS booths inspired a children’s book: “‘The Lonely Phone Booth,’ written by Peter Ackerman, is now in its second printing. In the book, a glass phone booth grows lonely as people transferred their allegiances to cellphones.”

booth3 booth4

And here’s a shot from Scott Matthews of the booth on 90th street from a few years ago:
old phone booth 90th

HISTORY, NEWS | 18 comments | permalink
    1. ckk.name says:

      The one at 90th and WEA was replaced perhaps ~10ish years ago, so that’s not necessarily Rachmaninoff, Babe Ruth level historical

    2. Nathan says:

      Who actually uses this WiFi? Or the WiFi that’s apparently in the subway stations now? Seems like a waste.

    3. Noreaster says:

      I use the wi-fi in the subways. How is it a waste?

    4. Sean says:

      It is to someone who is 80.

    5. Anon says:

      How long are you in the subway stations? Ideally my train is coming in 3 minutes or less so I don’t need or have time to bother connecting.

    6. Merri Kingsly says:

      I spoke with them today and the 3 original phone booths on west end that they are changing including the one on 101 will NOT have the wifi unfortunately. They will remain just as phone booths.

    7. lara says:

      I love the wi-fi in the subways. I delete a lot of email before my train comes.

    8. Nathan says:

      Can’t you just do that with your normal cell data plan? I just don’t see the need for WiFi in places where one isn’t sitting around for extended periods of time.

    9. WestSideGuy says:

      I didn’t even know that there were any phone booths left anywhere in the world other than London. When was the last time anyone used a phone booth in this town? How much does a pay phone cost anyway? If we kept everything for nostalgia’s sake, we would be living on farmland. I say the City should replace them with air pumps for bicycle tires or change machines for parking meters.

    10. nycityny says:

      That’s pretty amazing that local phone calls will be free. NY payphones always charged by the minute even for local calls (unlike most of the rest of the country). How will the owners make money with local calls being free? And why would anyone at 66th St and WEA use a payphone for a long distance call? Just doesn’t make economic sense to me.

    11. Cny says:

      Advertising.

    12. Varkner Giraffe says:

      These are actually “new” phone booths. The old ones were made of wood and had a little bench inside where you could sit.

    13. Alta says:

      The idea is that access to wifi is a basic need now. You need it to apply for any job, find out about city services, apply for affordable housing, etc. Not having access to wifi leaves you behind.

      This will ensure that the neediest in NYC are not being left behind because they do not have home internet.

    14. grandmasterbeta says:

      Yes, you can often use cell but it goes against your data usage. Wifi has higher bandwidth and is basically free. Maybe this doesn’t affect you, but some people use prepaid phone plans or are traveling and their roaming charges are expensive.

      Honestly, you really didn’t know why WIFI is better than cellular? I guess you work for Verizon.

    15. Sean says:

      Your name is offensive. ATTENTION Moderator!

    16. Christina says:

      @ Sean… Oh, Please!!! Hopefully you’re being facetious!!!! If not, get over it!

    17. Sean says:

      I will not. This is disgusting.