Mister Softee Unmasked

Meet The Man Who Uses LinkNYC To Freak Out NYers

"I have never understood the fundamental premise of LinkNYC, that every single outdoor payphone should be routed and replaced with this unproven alternative, or how such a broad decision affecting the public interest was reached without a single call for public input." [...]

His core beef with LinkNYC is rooted in the singular fact that they claim to be "the payphone of the future," when their primary purpose seems to be serving up digital advertisements to non-consenting pedestrians.

"I consider the kiosks themselves to be unwanted, unasked for irritants, and to express that sentiment I turned the kiosks themselves into irritants," Thomas explains. But he's also quick to emphasize that he considers his work not as a protest but as a sort of one-man outsider art project, and that he views LinkNYC as "less of a threat than an opportunity." He'd be happy for others to take up the mantle of street theater as well. [...]

His process involves using the kiosk's free domestic calling feature to dial one of the countless conference call numbers he's rigged with various pieces. He then cranks up the volume on the device, clicks back to the home screen, and walks away.

Each of his recordings begins with sixty seconds of silence, a detail he added after discovering that people in certain areas, particularly Murray Hill and the Upper East Side, "really hated when the serenity of their neighborhoods were disrupted by noise blasting out of these things." This "magic minute," as he's dubbed it, helps Thomas to avoid detection, while also allowing him to program several machines at once. [...]

Eventually, I ask Thomas whether LinkNYC is aware of his efforts. He believes that they are, and that the company may have even gone through the trouble of rewiring the network because of him. While users were once able to place uninterrupted calls for four hours at a time, the kiosks now require you to confirm that you're still there after 10 (or sometimes three) minutes. It wouldn't be particularly hard for them to find him, he notes, waving to one of the tablet's three cameras.

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