New LinkNYC Kiosks Proposed for More UWS Blocks

The digital kiosks that have been spreading throughout the neighborhood are likely to expand further, as the city and the consortium of companies behind the service has identified more spots in the neighborhood. There are now over 100 of the kiosks on the UWS, as seen on this map.

LinkNYC hotspots provide free wi-fi and calling stations and offer information and device charging. They’re going to have bus arrival times too. Some have raised concerns about the data that these kiosks are collecting. And some Upper West Siders blocked cameras on the kiosks with yellow Post-its.

At a community board meeting scheduled for Tuesday, April 10 at 7 p.m. at 250 #est 87th Street, the city and CityBridge will be discussing putting new kiosks at the following locations:

•    2 Columbus Avenue (West 59th- 60th Streets)
•    111 West 60 Street (Columbus Avenue)
•    40 Columbus Avenue (N/W/C of West 61st Street)
•    322 Columbus Avenue (West 75th–76th Streets)
•    100 West 77th Street (Amsterdam – Columbus Avenues)

NEWS | 60 comments | permalink
    1. dannyboy says:

      NIMBY

    2. yourneighbor says:

      Looking at the linked citywide map, there are close to 2000 of these kiosks throughout the city. Quite noticeable is the lack of kiosks in low income neighborhoods – the places where residents most likely have the least access to the internet. Isn’t the company that owns the city issued franchise required to serve all classes of citizens in NYC or did NYC just do a money grab and leave that out of the contract?

      • dannyboy says:

        NYC just did a money grab and leave that out of the contract.

      • Areas not served on the UWS are high income districts.

        Central Park West
        West End Ave
        Riverside Drive

        • dannyboy says:

          shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

        • Carlos says:

          My guess is that those avenues are zoned to exclude anything commercial and these are considered commercial. And the fact that they are zoned to exclude commercial is what makes them more desirable places to live, hence higher prices.

          So please stop putting the cart before the horse.

          XOXOXO,

          A Resident of one of those Avenues

    3. Only a Teensy Paranoid says:

      Re: “Some have raised concerns about the data that these kiosks are collecting. And some Upper West Siders blocked cameras on the kiosks with yellow Post-its.”

      And some (perhaps all) go about wearing tinfoil hats and carry tinfoil umbrellas to ward off prying by ‘the silent helicopters’.

      • Vince says:

        Clearly you prefer to be dumbed-down. Look what’s happening to Facebook, Youtube and twitter. But go back to sleep, nothing here for you. Move on citizen.

      • EricaC says:

        I don’t think you have to wear a tin foil hat to be concerned about data collection and sharing. However, I’m not sure how they collect data if you don’t use the WiFi, don’t connect for power, and don’t otherwise interact with them – though if I understand correctly, waking around leaving Bluetooth and WiFi on in the settings of your phone does leave some trace on the WiFi networks you pass even if you don’t connect. If someone actually knows whether that is true, I would appreciate an explanation.

    4. Emilio says:

      All I see using those things are drug addicts and bums that hog it up not sure if that is any useful.

    5. rs says:

      Is it just me? I’m never able to connect my phone to a kiosk.

    6. Seymour Glass says:

      The free WiFi doesn’t work very well. I have connected many times but the kiosks don’t automatically recognize my device and I have to log in every time. And until I do, my device is connected to the wifi without internet access. Anyone have the same problem or figured out a way to overcome?

      • Independent says:

        @ Seymour Glass, #6:

        What you have described is, I believe, the way “free” public WiFi generally works. The initial wireless connection only works for accessing the web page (known, I believe, as a captive portal) where one must log-on– a process that includes affirmatively accepting terms of service. Only after doing that is one granted full access to the Web. I believe that time-limits, after which one must at least accept the terms and log-on anew, are also quite common, if not standard.

    7. geoff says:

      exactly where is the camera, and how high off the ground?

      • Mark Moore says:

        It’s in the center behind the dark glass, up near the top of the tower. Positioned to see way down the street, not to make video calls or anything like that. It’s visible if you look hard.

        • dannyboy says:

          So we have an obelisk “looking way down the street”.

          where did i see that before?, wondered me

    8. Rhett says:

      This sounds a count for people in nieghborhoods.
      I wonder if it absorbs the information on the cell phones
      Or tablets when people connect them to the kiosks
      Thank you anyway , it is great for emergency calls
      N other information about what is happening in New York. I hope if there is an emergency they will flash the emergency to the public. Weather wise or other wise.

    9. UpperBestSide says:

      This is good news. The Wifi kiosks offer easy access and fast internet speeds, especially to those without data plans or smartphones. In my experience however, the kiosks restrict devices from connecting to them if the devices are inside a building, rather than on the street. I think these would be much more beneficial to the UWS and many other neighborhoods if they provided those without internet access in their homes access to a network with a strong connection.

      • Cato says:

        You need to read George Orwell’s 1984 (or re-read it if you read it in middle school, thinking it was a creepy science-fiction story).

        As you read it, think about: How much of this is already the case? How much of it am I *trying* to make it the case?

        Yeah, let’s lobby to get universal government-provided internet access in our living rooms from central kiosks. Wake up, Winston Smith!

        • dannyboy says:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winston_Smith
          Winston Smith is a fictional character and the protagonist of George Orwell’s 1949 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. The character was employed by Orwell as an everyman in the setting of the novel, a “central eye … [the reader] can readily identify with.”

          but i had to use Google

          oh,oh

      • Legacy American says:

        @ UpperBestSide:
        “In my experience however, the kiosks restrict devices from connecting to them if the devices are inside a building, rather than on the street.”

        Assuming you are talking about devices that are (a) /mobile/ and (b) /within range/ of the signal from the LinkNYC kiosk, how could it “know” the /exact/ location (i.e., whether in or out of doors) of any such device trying to connect?

        Are you sure that the reason for your being unable to connect when you tried from within a building was not simply a matter of the signal not reaching your device– if not because of sheer distance, then perhaps because of some barrier or interference?

    10. Anon says:

      100 West 77th Street is a school building housing 3 middle schools and one elementary. Now the kids able to get on Wi-Fi during the school day with no parental controls, no blocked sites. This can’t be a good idea.

      • Independent says:

        Hmm…you raise what certainly sounds like a real concern. I wonder how many of the other LinkNYC kiosks and other “free”, public WiFi hotspots are within range of one or more schools.

        That said, I believe that by a certain (still remarkably young) age, many, if not /most, can already surf the web in class with (if nothing else) the data plan on their smartphone, tablet or laptop.

        Shouldn’t students be made to surrender their phones, at least, at the start of the school-day? Was it Mayor Bloomberg who was attacked for requiring (or was it merely /suggesting/?) such an obviously common sense policy?

    11. an actual linknyc user says:

      two cameras lurk atop the advertising panels, another one is just above the small tablet screen.

      i use these kiosks a fair amount and can report from experience that they are pretty rinky-dink, and ugly as hell if i say so myself. praises of these “smart city” triumphs seem to be sung loudest by those who have never used them.

      and btw i am not the stereotypical linknyc customer as profiled in other comments here, not that i should be ashamed if i was.

      phone calls via linknyc sound like garbage to the person you are calling. in my attempts to connect to the free wifi it is sometimes blazing fast but much of the time it is uselessly slow or does not work at all. half the tablet screens i encounter do not work at all. the advertising platters seem to work pretty well, these days at least. and now they are stuffing the ad screens with as much gratuitous crap as they can to get your attention, from 3rd graders’ poetry to weirdly disembodied AP headlines that oftentimes make no sense without the story beneath them. such uninspired creative thinking has gone into this program. a lot of smart city hogwash propaganda is fueling this boondoggle and i don’t understand how they get away with all their unearned municipal privilege. i guess that’s why i’m not in politics.

      • Eagle Eye says:

        Re: “…or does not work at all. half the tablet….”

        Sentences BEGIN WITH AN UPPER-CASE (CAPITAL) LETTER!!

        Sheesh, can’t nobody writ good no more?

      • dannyboy says:

        “and btw i am not the stereotypical linknyc customer as profiled in other comments here, not that i should be ashamed if i was.”

        You are a generous person, by you comment.

        Not-so-much those “profilers”.

    12. robert says:

      I would never ever use these and/or the WiFi service that off. They are just as dangerous to you as using any APPLE or Google product. Using an Apple product including the cloud allow them to search your usage and/or computer at any time. Google has in there term of use for Gmail, google doc’s etc that you give them permission to access any and everything on your computer. This means they have all over your contacts, emails, sites you view etc. By using their services you are also giving them the ability to share your information with 3rd parties. This is why when you and a friend are texting/emailing about a trip to Europe and then you suddenly start getting adds about travel to Europe. The Kiosks use the same type of what’s called a “negative consent agreement/letter”, it says “that by continuing to use their service you agree to let them do this”. If you connect once to their service say at 96 & B’way and a week later you go by their Kiosk on 86 & Lex the system with quire your phone and download any new info on your phone, this is done to “synch up” your acct with them and it is done with out any notification to you.

      • Independent says:

        [To replace previous]

        @ Robert, #12:

        As the saying goes,
        If you’re not paying for the product, then you are the product.

        This would apply to “free” services, such as those offered by Google and LinkNYC. The cost — at a minimum— is allowing and enabling the provider (and often any number of third-parties as well) to monitor, track and profile one’s usage. (And, in all-too-many cases at least, to go on to sell said data to the highest bidder as well. Note that I am not making any accusations in this regard concerning either of the two aforementioned companies.)

        With Apple, in contrast, the user actually purchases the products and services in-question by paying a fee (and by no means a discounted or bargain one). Granted, even the latter is by no means without its own privacy concerns. Nonetheless, there is a fundamental difference between the two business models and the distinction must be made.

    13. Carlos says:

      As I understand it, their business model is to make money by selling ads on the kiosks but most of the time when I walk by I see marginally interesting trivia rather than ads so I don’t know how well that is working out for them.

      And I agree with others above that I find their wifi to be spotty at best.

    14. m.pipik says:

      I want to add my expereinces to the others. The only people I have seen use these are addicts.

      I’ve never seen anyone who might live or work in the area using one.

      @yourneighbor is right, why aren’t these in areas where people don’t have much access to the internet? So much for the liberal concept of equal access by our very “liberal” Mayor.

      This contract definitely needs to be investigated for kickbacks. But whom do we trust to do it right?

      • dannyboy says:

        “The only people I have seen use these are addicts.”

        you sure of that?

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        Dannyboy is right. How does M.pipik know if the person using the kiosk is “an addict”?

        or maybe he means “addicted to the Internet.”

    15. MTS says:

      I’ve lived for 13 years in what’s recently become a gentrified area.

      Two LinkNYC kiosks were installed on my block a couple of years ago.

      During that time I’ve never seen anyone use them other than strung-out semi-homeless looking individuals who yell frantically into the machine at all hours having conversations that clearly sound like they’re between an addict and their dealer.

      No shiny happy folks charge their phone or use the map function or make calls.

      Doubtful anyone’s using the wifi either, since there are 2 nice public parks very close-by with free wifi, as well as numerous establishments where the purchase of a cup of coffee will get you free wifi.

      The kiosks (in my ‘hood, anyway) are basically a free phone for druggies– who are attracted to the block by the presence of the kiosks.

      Not sure why they don’t just apply for an “Obama-phone”, unless they’re looking to remain untraceable.

      Then again, with the built-in camera on the kiosks that stores data– and the facial recognition tech used by law enforcement– it wouldn’t be hard to identify anyone using them.

      Who knows? Maybe that’s why they’re there in the first place.

      Smile!! You’re on Kandid Kiosk!

      https://www.link.nyc/faq.html#devices

      • dannyboy says:

        “During that time I’ve never seen anyone use them other than strung-out semi-homeless looking individuals who yell frantically into the machine at all hours having conversations that clearly sound like they’re between an addict and their dealer…

        “The kiosks (in my ‘hood, anyway) are basically a free phone for druggies– who are attracted to the block by the presence of the kiosks.”

        You see what you expect to see.

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        MTS said:

        “During that time I’ve never seen anyone use them other than strung-out semi-homeless looking individuals who yell frantically into the machine at all hours having conversations that clearly sound like they’re between an addict and their dealer.”

        how could MTS know this in the 10 seconds (or less) it takes him to walk past the kiosk?

        perhaps the kiosk user always screaming, “I need the heroin NOW!!”

        or maybe MTS just has a fertile imagination.

        • Leon says:

          Does dannyboy = Bruce Bernstein? Or do they just have a mutual admiration society the likes of Trump and Putin? Inquiring minds want to know…

          • Bruce Bernstein says:

            response to Leon:

            you’ve got a problem with progressives expressing their opinions? maybe you’re an ideological prisoner of Fox News.

    16. Jane says:

      When I look out my window, I can see 3 kiosks on the street in front of my building. Why they need to be in a 1-block radius is beyond me.

    17. francesca says:

      Egads! Already tripping over too big recycling cans, bicycle racks, postal boxes, fire hydrants, Instacart delivery depots and kiosks that are mainly occupied on a per diem basis by homeless people. Rehetoru al question: does any government official EVER look carefully at the state of our sidewalks?

      • dannyboy says:

        “mainly occupied on a per diem basis by homeless people.”

        because they’re homeless.

    18. UWSer says:

      Google. The kiosks are owned by Google.

      As the Village Voice put it in 2016…

      “That LinkNYC is, ultimately, underwritten by Google should tell you a lot about why New York got so very lucky as to receive an unprecedentedly fast network of citywide public Wi-Fi — for ‘free.’ ”

      from https://www.villagevoice.com/2016/07/06/google-is-transforming-nycs-payphones-into-a-personalized-propaganda-engine/

    19. Mark Moore says:

      These are surveillance towers. They have cameras that are hard to spot, plus wifi and bluetooth tracking. They have microphones that might be on, might be off at any given time, who knows. All owned by a consortium of faceless corporations led by Google that we have no control over. Take them away please.

      These people are right:
      http://rethinklink.nyc/

      • You should be more afraid of your cell phone tracking you than phone kiosks.

        • Cato says:

          It’s not a competition. You should be afraid of both.

          As well as of Alexa, Cortana, Siri and all the other microphones you have set to be on, permanently. Of course they’re just for your convenience, only when you want them, right?

          Riiiiiiight……

        • Legacy American says:

          “You should be more afraid of your cell phone tracking you than phone kiosks.”

          Do you know that he (Mark Moore) /isn’t/? Or even that he /owns/ or /uses/ a cell phone at all?

    20. Jimbo says:

      The UWS already fought against digital billboards in our neighborhoods. Where is CB 7? Where is Rosenthal?
      This is a money grab bu DiBlasio who is very busy selling my eyes.

    21. Yarnguy says:

      I see so much native advertising on these things, I wonder if they’re doing what they are meant to do… and who’s covering the cost?

      • UWS_lifer says:

        I think you answered your own question. The advertising pays for it.

        • dannyboy says:

          Carlos says:
          April 8, 2018 at 7:29 am
          As I understand it, their business model is to make money by selling ads on the kiosks but most of the time when I walk by I see marginally interesting trivia rather than ads so I don’t know how well that is working out for them.

          Follow the money.
          Scopamici.
          Trombamici 😂😂

      • Cato says:

        :who’s covering the cost?

        Why, you are, of course.

    22. DrMMM says:

      Somebody please educate me. And I’m not being sarcastic. What in the world are the actual, needed, unable-to-get-elsewhere (i.e. home, work, Starbucks/other widely available indoor public spaces) services available at these kiosks? I walk by them daily and wonder to myself why anyone would stand there, out on the street, doing anything on any sort of device for any reason. What am I missing?

      • dannyboy says:

        “What am I missing?”

        services people areunable-to-get-elsewhere: (not in their home, work, or Starbucks).

        Our community is not all of one economic class

      • Juan says:

        On a nice day, if I need to do something on my phone and it would be easier to do it on wifi, I would prefer to do it standing outside next to one of these kiosks than fighting the coffee-obsessed masses in Starbucks.

        Also, I believe they are paying a fee to the city for the right to exist, so there is also that benefit.

        I’m not a huge fan of them either, and I’m not arguing that the benefits outweigh the costs, but there is some benefit to them.

      • RK says:

        The kiosks provide free wifi. Crappy free wifi is better than no wifi. Ask anyone with a small data plan. Plus, all the best cities are doing it.

        The tablet part of it is some sort of attempt at an urban perquisite, coupled with an opportunity to advertise in the public square, which helps defray the cost of the wifi. And it impresses the tourists, which counts for something I guess. Sorta like the big touchscreen thingies in the subway.

      • B.B. says:

        Public libraries have limited hours and or also limit amount of time one person can hog “free” computer/Wifi connections.

        Starbucks and other places that offer “free WiFi” are increasingly making it “ahem” uncomfortable for the homeless and or others who aren’t paying customers to lounge around all day using the service. That and in case you’ve not noticed Starbucks is actually opening smaller stores, which again discourages lounging about.

        Then there is the obvious (again), Starbucks and other retail/commercial places close at some point. So if you want “free Wifi” at 1AM you need to make other arrangements.

        Many poor to low income persons have limited data plans. They use “free Wifi” as a supplement.

        None of this even touches tourists and other visitors to NYC……

        Nearly every other world class city in Europe, Asia or whatever has some sort of free WiFi. NYC’s limited offerings are rather puny by some standards.

        Have to say since the porn was removed things do seem to have quieted down. Yes, you still see homeless or other persons tethered to a kiosk while huddled under blankets, but that is becoming less of an issue.

    23. RK says:

      I’m writing this while sitting at an AWS Machine Learning seminar discussing automated sentiment analysis and face recognition. No joke.

      Most of your technology usage is underwritten by advertising. Without this advertising, you would have to pay for services such as Google Search, free email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. If we had to pay for services, these services would not have reached the critical mass to break out of the geek-and-enthusiast niche and would not be as useful as they are now. So if you use Google, and don’t want to pay for the hundreds of thousands of CPUs used to complete your queries in a fraction of a second using data and technology the scale of which was unthinkable even 10 years ago, please stop complaining about advertising.

      If you have to consume advertising, wouldn’t you want it to be something you’re interested in rather than random stuff? And don’t you think the advertisers would rather people interested in their product be the ones viewing the ads? Yes? Then it’s a win-win-win. You get use of an unprecedented amount of intellectual capital created by some of the brightest minds in the world, hosted on a staggeringly large hardware platform, delivered via a simple user interface that even whiny UWS geriatrics can use, for free. Advertisers get to focus their ad dollars on people who are interested in them. You only need to get exposed to advertising of interest to you. Please point out the evil here.

      This is not the Gestapo tracking your every move. No black helicopters. No evil scheme to… well… do something evil. No fevered Hollywood plots. Just more efficient commerce and a more advanced society.

      Oh, and stop complaining about the cameras in the Link pillars. That battle was lost long ago. Next time you go outside, look up and around and I’ll bet you see at least one camera. Color, hi-def and night-vision equipped. Ever notice how crimes on the news often have surveillance footage? Not coincidence.

      • dannyboy says:

        Steve Wozniak drops Facebook: “The profits are all based on the user’s info”.

        Wozniak adjusted his profile on Facebook before deactivating his account and said he was shocked to see the extent of the platform’s data collection. His announcement comes as Facebook is under fire for its potential mishandling of user data with Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm.

      • Independent says:

        @RK, #23:

        1.) What about cases, e.g. an ISP, where the provider of a paid product or service, already profiting amply from the full, market rate (often inflated) fees they charge, seeks to profit further at the expense of their customers by extensively and often invasively tracking, collecting and profiling their usage and then packaging and selling said data to the highest bidder?

        2.) Not everyone considers the technological advances you cite to have proven, on balance, to be a net /positive/ for society.

        Technology is, or at least was, supposed to serve man. I am hardly the first nor the only one to contend that today, the reality is at least as often the reverse.

        3). The cameras are another matter. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy in a PUBLIC place such as the sidewalks of NYC.[1]

        [1] http://www.krages.com/ThePhotographersRight.pdf
        http://lindsaydobsonphotography.com/blog/photographing-people-and-children-in-public-places/
        https://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/personal-view/3559975/There-is-no-law-against-photographing-children.html

    24. Independent says:

      [to replace previous]

      Some additional points:

      1.) Using any public wireless network subjects one to both privacy as well as security risks.

      2.) I was going to ask whether there is any reason to think that whatever tracking and profiling is done by the operators of the LinkNYC kiosks, CityBridge, is any worse than that done by one’s ISP or telecom provider.*
      (*NOTE: I have no affiliation with or connection to either the author of the linked article or to the site where it appears.)

      Then I read the following in the privacy policy at the LinkNYC web site:

      We will not store your browsing history or track the websites you visit when you use your personal device to access the Services.

      Are there /any/ ISPs or telecom providers that even make a comparable claim?

      3.) RK, in Comment #23, contends that the type of tracking and profiling under discussion here (i.e., that done legally by a recognized commercial entity, in this case CityBridge) is harmless and even desirable. Even if one were to accept his arguments (and, certainly, many do /not/), what assurance does one have that the data in-question, once collected, will only be used for such purposes as outlined by RK or in the relevant terms of service?

      Such data, which can be highly revealing and personal, can be abused in any number of ways by any number of entities. Even if one were to trust all of the authorized, original collectors of the data, what about the risk of it being stolen by rogue entities? The seemingly countless number of such instances that have been reported to-date and continue to be reported regularly would suggest that this threat remains all-too-real.