Today in Payphone News

The Last Remaining Pay Phones In NYC Will Be Ripped Out

"My office has received numerous community complaints from local residents about these antiquated pay phones, which present public safety and quality of life issues," Johnson said in a statement to Gothamist Friday. "Additionally, they take up sorely needed sidewalk space that could better serve people with disabilities, families with strollers and ease sidewalk congestion."

"Quality of life" is code for "poor people use them", isn't it?

All in all, thirty will be removed in Hell's Kitchen, along 9th Avenue from West 23rd to 57th Street, by the end of March. After that, DoITT will uproot about 3,000 pay phones all over the city. While they are committed to removing all of their pay phones, not all pay phones are controlled by CityBridge, so you may still see a few out there. [...]

It's worth noting that those remaining booths -- of which there are only four left, all on the Upper West Side -- will remain in place, per an agreement, and will continue to be maintained by CityBridge. They also now provide free phone calls. You'll find them on West End Avenue around 66th, 90th, 100th and 101st streets.

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19 Responses:

  1. phuzz says:

    I saw someone using a phone box just the other day, and I had to do a double-take.
    Then I realised he was using a mobile phone, and just hiding out of the rain.
    In a lot of the villages near where I grew up the phone is long gone, and the phone box contains a defibrillator instead.

  2. nooj says:

    "Additionally, they take up sorely needed sidewalk space that could better serve unkempt piles of uber and lyft scooters."

    • Doctor Memory says:

      God, if only. It's New York City: we don't pile up useful things on our sidewalks. That space is reserved for jacked SUVs with fake NYPD placards and mountains of leaking trash bags (so the same thing, really).

      It's trash city, baby. The rest of us just live here.

      • jwz says:

        I've never understood how NYC manages to not use trash cans and yet the trash mostly stays in the bags. If we did that here... gestures wildly

        • Doctor Memory says:

          The bags are super thick: they're required to be 1.5mm in thickness and your building will get fined aggressively if you put out non-compliant bags.

          Sadly they still sometimes burst when being hoisted onto the trucks, and there is no trash bag yet made that our rats can't burrow through. People keep talking about Madrid-style dumpsters, but that would require touching not one but two of the electrified rails of NYC politics: changing a union contract and removing parking spaces so I don't expect to see it in my lifetime.

          • ssl-3 says:

            Despite what your link says, there's no way that the bags are 1.5mm. They would be inflexible like cardboard at best, and ridiculously expensive.

            Mil is the normal Stateside unit for garbage bags.

            They could be 1.5mil, perhaps, and that be a reasonably-heavy bag, but 1.5mm is about sixty times thicker than that.

            Tl;Dr, the intarwebs are full of lies.

            • Nick Lamb says:

              1.5 mil (0.0381 mm) seems a bit thin for a bag rated to reliably carry 60 pounds of trash without splitting and scattering garbage all over the place. I can believe New York would have a law saying 1.5 mil but if they did it seems like it's basically only saying "Don't use those old-fashioned ultra-thin disposable carrier bags to put trash in, you idiots". Heavy duty would be 4 mil plastic, that's what you'd use for, for example, the bag of nuts and bolts inside the IKEA-style flat pack kit so that they're all still there when the customer receives it.

              In my country the collectors don't hoist bags anywhere, they roll whole bins out to their truck, and the truck empties them - I guess maybe New York only does that for industrial-scale garbage? But I still would be a bit doubtful about a 0.04mm bag to take anything more than a few kilos of food waste and stuff down to the "bin shed" (a small building mandated by planning regulations for residences with more than two households, to hold whatever receptacles for garbage are currently required by local government).

              • Doctor Memory says:

                Trucks with automatic lifters for standardized bins? That, sir, is space-alien technology that could never work here in Trash City. We're proud to under-pay city employees to break their backs slinging 50-90lb sacks of sludge into the backs of garbage trucks that haven't been updated since the Truman administration.

              • ssl-3 says:

                The very heaviest bags that Menards (a US home improvement store) sells are 3 mil. I've used such bags for hauling plaster debris from demolition and loaded them so heavy that I could barely lift them (probably 200 pounds, ish) and they survived.

                They're also almost a dollar per bag, which is quite expensive, and they're very heavy: A box of just 15 of them has some real gravity to it.

                I do not think that I've ever seen a 4 mil trash-bag sized bag, and I do study these things when I need to buy particularly heavy bags (which I do every few years for various projects). They probably exist, but they're certainly not common.

                I do agree that 1.5 mil might be a bit borderline 60 pounds and survivable of being handled at least twice, but meh: The specs don't have to make sense for them to be specs. (That said, I accept the challenge of loading 60 pounds of material into a 1.5 mil bag and having it hold together, suspended from the top, for several days. I think it's quite accomplishable and that the main difficulty will be in rigging the supports.)

                In practice, I imagine (but do not know for I have never been there) that folks in NYC use the cheapest bags they can get away with, and that nobody ever gets in trouble for it unless doing so creates a mess on the sidewalk.

                In the States, we've got a lot of different sets of rules -- the rules are often very different between each of the 50 States, and each city is mostly free to implement their own rules.

                In the apartment buildings I've lived in, we just had big steel dumpsters outside in the parking lot that we'd carry are trash over to, which would be emptied by a private company. There was no shed; just a big metal box with a big flappy plastic lid on a hinge.

                Some cities do have regulated (provided for "free") bins for normal single-family household trash and semi-automated government-operated trucks to empty them, which is paid for out of taxes, but some expect you to figure out how to deal with your trash yourself (by hiring it done or hauling it on your own or burning it or whatever you do, but always at your own expense and effort).

                Around my area, landfills (which can be either public or private) tend to be profitable enterprises: Nobody gets to use them for free.

                I spent some time in a rural area of Florida once that didn't have regulated trash pickup, but did have enormous free communal dumpsters to put trash into in a clearing in the woods in at least one spot for the use of local residents.

                This was done, I was told, to encourage folks to actually get their trash to a landfill instead of just burning it on-site. And the point of that wasn't so much because burning trash is bad (and stuff), but because they were having a lot of wildfires at that time and it was determined that giving a free alternative to trash fires would help with that problem.

                I just checked, and the bags I bought most recently are 1.05 mil. I picked them because they were the thickest bags of reasonable size for the garbage can in my kitchen that were available at the Wal-Mart I was standing in, and it's important to me that they be durable because I haul my own trash inside of my car to the dumpster behind my office (that my boss pays a flat rate to have emptied weekly). They've been quite adequate at this job, so far, for handling the household trash that collects in my rather large trash can.

                And the point there is that it's hard to generalize the ways of things for the US. It's big. We've got all kinds of climates, all kinds of cultures, and all kinds of rules to go with all of them. New York City is pretty weird and unique with its bags-on-the-sidewalk policy of handling garbage, but every little city and burg has their own rules and expectations about this (and many other things).

                • Nick Lamb says:

                  The "bin sheds" are mostly about aesthetics. It's unsightly to have dumpsters just stood around on every property, expensive places always hid them but by making it a planning regulation you force everybody to put at least some effort in. Our brick building with a tiled roof, its own electrical and water supply and so on far exceeds what the regulation requires, but then I did deliberately choose to buy a home that's done how I'd do it if I'd designed it myself, not built down to meet a budget.

                  Regulations reflect the attitudes of the society making them. When I bought this place I read all the paperwork from its construction as a kind of due diligence. They'd had rights to put a building here for years before construction started, it's a big plot which used to have one tiny house on it. So obviously the plan was demolish that house, put a large multi-occupant building on the site. Conveniently the "character" regulations are a wash here, usually you've got a problem that you mustn't build new things which look wrong, you can't take out one bungalow from a row and put a four story apartment block there - it'll be rejected. But this road has total nonsense on it already, a two bed chalet bungalow, a three story townhouse, some mid-century family homes, all sorts of stuff, so their application paperwork is like "Here are photos of some random buildings on the same street. As you can see they have nothing in common. So therefore our new project won't look out of place". But over the period of years planning rules for parking changed dramatically and you can really see that. Their first application is denied for lacking 1.5 car spaces per household the minimum at that time. Their last application (corresponding to what was built) got OK'd for just squeaking under the now maximum limit of 0.75 car spaces per household. I've been to the part of the city built when that first application was rejected. It's um... there are a lot of cars there. I am glad I don't live there.

                  Landfills are barely a thing here any more. Land is expensive and environmental regulations make landfill even more expensive. Once upon a time the dream was you'd fill a hole with household refuse, put a bit of soil on top and then you've got pristine level ground. Subsidence, noxious gases and even explosions put paid to that idea so now anything that isn't recycled or composted goes for high temperature incineration in much of the country. I suppose the residue from incinerators must still end up somewhere but it ought to be pretty inert unlike fresh trash.

                  • ssl-3 says:

                    Thank you for the well-written response. (I'd have gotten back sooner, but I've been busy moving between houses and stockpiling TP and ammunition because I'm just a good God-fearing American like yourself.) ;)

                    I'm afraid that I can't follow much of what you mean in your second paragraph, except to say: What you describe is foreign to me in the places in NW and Central Ohio where I've lived.

                    I don't understand 1.5 car spaces per household: We just don't do that around here. These are all foreign concepts.

                    I presently live less than five miles from an enormous landfill that accepts barely-covered trash that arrives from all over the country in long trains of open-topped rail cars, in a county where I can't find any real facilities for recycling at all (although I can drive my beer/soda cans and steel to a place that is 20 miles away to sell them).

                    Here, there is no curbside recycling or even drop-off bins, and no paid-for trash pickup: I either figure it out for myself, or it just piles up.

                    Again, the US is a big place. The place I describe is the place I live in, and landfills are a very important part of my life.

                    (And my more-rural parents still burn trash, as do their neighbors.)

            • Doctor Memory says:

              D'oh, teach me to copy and paste without thinking about the units. You are of course correct -- I assume that the page meant to say 1.5mil.

              (As a practical matter, I suspect that most buildings just buy whatever the heaviest-duty 60-gallon bag is in stock at costco.)

        • MattyJ says:

          My favorite thing about this particular style of SF trashcan is that the recycle hole just leads to a trap door that is almost always open/missing so that your plastic drinking bottles and cold brew cans just fall into the regular trash, anyway.

  3. Doctor Memory says:

    "Quality of life" is code for "poor people use them", isn't it?

    Not so much any more in Manhattan (at least south of 96th st): the LinkNYC kiosks that already replaced most pay phones here offer free phone calls whereas the remaining phones mostly still charge money, so everyone's gravitated toward those.

    Queens / Bronx / South Brooklyn though, definitely.

  4. thielges says:

    One of my favorite clusters of phone booths here.

  5. Eric says:

    Those damn kids today probably just use Google Meet or Facetime instead of learning to build a red box anyway.

  6. apm74 says:

    Turn on the External Camera, Hal
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxyV-e9cub0

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