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