City removes last New York street payphone

On Monday, the city’s last payphone was removed from a street in Times Square.

City officials said goodbye to the iconic coin-operated phone booth as a crane ripped it off the sidewalk at Seventh Avenue and West 50th Street Monday morning.

The removal of the telephone marks the completion of the city’s nearly decade-long effort to replace outdated technology with LinksNYC kiosks, that offer free Wi-Fi, national calls, mobile device charging, access to 911 and 311 and other conveniences.

Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, who was present when the payphone was retired, said he hoped its replacement would bring fairer access to technology for New Yorkers. Although he admitted his removal was bittersweet.

“I won’t miss all the dead tones, but I have to say I felt a pang of nostalgia watching it go,” he said on Twitter.

New York City retired its last working payphone on Monday.
Reuters
Removal of a public telephone in New York
Payphones will be replaced by kiosks offering free Wi-Fi and phone charging.
Reuters

The city, under the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio, issued a tender to replace payphones in 2014 with new infrastructure offering free public Wi-Fi 24/7.

CityBridge’s proposal to build a LinksNYC system was chosen the same year, and the city began replacing old payphones with the new LinksNYC displays in 2016.

Most of the city’s payphones were scrapped in 2020. Over 7,500 of the payphones had been replaced with approximately 2,000 LinksNYC kiosks at the time.

Phone Booth Removal
The payphone will be housed at the Museum of the City of New York.
AFP via Getty Images

The Midtown payphone will be sent to the Museum of the City of New York as a relic from the days before cell phones were widely used. The exhibit, Analog City: NYC BC (Before Computers), opened last Friday.

However, New Yorkers looking for a bit of nostalgia on the city streets aren’t completely out of luck.

“If you grew up in the city in the 90s and 2000s, you knew the difficulty of using one of these,” Dandia Asad wrote on Twitter. “It is now a historical artifact.”

Another social media user simply wrote, “not me crying on a payphone” with the crying emoji.

The payphone removed Monday was the last city-owned payphone in the Big Apple. A few private payphones on public property still exist, and four closed payphones have been permanently saved from removal along West End Avenue on the Upper West Side.

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