New York City Removes Last Public Pay Phone

The phone booth was the last of more than 6,000 that have been stripped from New York streets following the takeover of cellphones and Wi-Fi.
Workers remove the final New York City payphone near Seventh Avenue and 50th Street in Midtown Manhattan on Monday.
Workers remove the final New York City payphone near Seventh Avenue and 50th Street in Midtown Manhattan on Monday.
TIMOTHY A. CLARY via Getty Images

You can now call public pay phones relics of the past in New York City.

The nation’s most populous city removed its last public phone booth from a sidewalk in Midtown Manhattan on Monday and shipped the once-ubiquitous device to a museum.

The hulking silver and blue phone kiosk was the last of more than 6,000 that have been stripped from the city’s streets since 2015. The transition followed the city’s agreement to swap the coin-operated pay phones for kiosks that provide free digital calls, Wi-Fi and cellphone charging.

These leaner, taller LinkNYC kiosks, known as Links, are funded through video advertising on the kiosks’ sides.

As of Tuesday there were 1,860 active Links throughout the city’s five boroughs, according to a LinkNYC website, and plenty more are planned. CityBridge, a digital consortium that installs the kiosks, is required to activate “no fewer than 4,000” by 2026, The City reported last month, citing the city’s contract.

Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, who watched the last pay phone’s removal on Monday, described the event as bittersweet.

A woman stands near a LinkNYC kiosk in New York City. These kiosks provide free Wi-Fi, phone charging and phone calls. The system is supported by advertising running on the sides of the kiosks.
A woman stands near a LinkNYC kiosk in New York City. These kiosks provide free Wi-Fi, phone charging and phone calls. The system is supported by advertising running on the sides of the kiosks.
Richard Levine via Getty Images

“I won’t miss all the dead dial tones but gotta say I felt a twinge of nostalgia seeing it go,” Levine wrote on Twitter.

The removed artifact is headed to the Museum of the City of New York, where it joins other once-pervasive icons of a past generation, like typewriters, rotary phones, pneumatic tubes, and library card catalogs in an “Analog City” exhibit. This exhibit, which runs through December, showcases city life before the age of personal computers and the internet.

“Whether you remember speaking with a telephone operator, or you’re too young to know the origin of ‘hang up the phone,’ Analog City offers a fascinating dive into New York’s leading industries and the inventions that made them run,” museum president Whitney Donhauser said in a statement.

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