Since the advent of computers and smartphones—and with them, the rapid rise of the digital age—many previously essential technologies have now become obsolete. This point is illustrated all too clearly as New York City says goodbye to its last public payphone. The lone phone booth was removed by crane from its post on Seventh Avenue and W. 50th street, just south of Times Square, on May 23, 2022.
Over the years, payphones have become iconic fixtures of the NYC landscape. So it’s no wonder that many are calling this the end of an era. City officials even gathered in Times Square to mark the occasion and bid a final farewell to the city’s last free-standing public phone booth. Mark Levine, the Manhattan borough president, also shared a video of the payphone as it was slowly lifted by crane off of the ground and onto the bed of a truck.
Since 2015, the city has been removing payphones from the street and replacing them with the new LinkNYC kiosks—which offer free public Wi-Fi, phone calls, and a tablet so users can access city services and maps. People can even use the high-tech booths to charge their mobile devices. And now there are almost 2,000 LinkNYC kiosks across New York City. But the demise of the payphone still ignites a wave of nostalgia in many—even inspiring one man to write a book called The Lonely Phone Booth.
But despite lingering fondness for a bygone era, progress is inevitable. “Just like we transitioned from the horse and buggy to the automobile and from the automobile to the airplane, the digital evolution has progressed from payphones to high-speed Wi-Fi kiosks to meet the demands of our rapidly changing daily communications needs,” says New York City commissioner Matthew Fraser.
However, though the last public payphone was just removed, that doesn’t mean that NYC has said goodbye to payphones forever. There are still a few private phone booths operating around the city, including four permanent full-length “Superman booths.” (So don’t worry—the beloved comic book hero still has a place to change.) And the last public payphone is now headed to the Museum of the City of New York, where the modern relic will soon be on display in an exhibit called Analog City: NYC B.C. (Before Computers).
The last public payphone in NYC was recently removed, and people are calling it the end of an era.
END OF AN ERA.
NYC’s last free-standing pay phones removed this a.m. in Times Sq. (7th Ave & 50th St.).
No more fishing in your pocket for quarters.pic.twitter.com/ZtRhzWPp4G
— Mark D. Levine (@MarkLevineNYC) May 23, 2022
Proud to bid farewell to NYC's final pay phone! pic.twitter.com/GQmIjk974I
— NYC Office of Technology and Innovation (@NYC__Tech) May 23, 2022
The old phone booths are now replaced with new LinkNYC kiosks, which offer free Wi-Fi, phone calls, access to city maps, and charging for mobile devices.
Out with the old, in with the new! NYC's last free-standing pay phones were removed today; they'll be replaced with a Link, boosting accessibility and connectivity across the city. #upgrade 🪛🔌📶 pic.twitter.com/UIBULnbi74
— LinkNYC (@LinkNYC) May 23, 2022
But there are still a few private full-sized “Superman booths” around the city.