New Yorkers Bid Fond Farewell to Once-Iconic Street Staple

City's last public pay phone is yanked from its perch on corner of 49th Street, 7th Avenue
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 25, 2022 11:18 AM CDT

(Newser) – You can save those quarters for laundry—New York City's last freestanding public pay phone is no more. The Big Apple's "planned long goodbye" for these technological relics came to a close Monday, as the last unit was yanked from the ground at the corner of 49th Street and Seventh Avenue in Manhattan, near Times Square. "What a beautiful day to be here to celebrate the end of what used to be the primary lifeline service for many New Yorkers," Matthew Fraser, NYC's chief technology officer, told NBC News.

CBS News calls the culmination of the removal process, which began in 2015 and saw some 6,000 pay phones around the city pulled out, the "end of an era." The phones have been replaced by LinkNYC kiosks that now offer free charging, free calls within the US, and high-speed WiFi, as well as transit and weather alerts, per PIX11. Some New Yorkers shared fond memories of their pay phone experiences, including one woman who recalled finding an envelope in the '60s with $38,000 inside, stuffed into a booth. "I was a little scared to pick it up," she tells NBC, noting she brought it to security guards at the nearby Bloomingdale's.

Younger locals, however, weren't as familiar with the once-iconic devices. "No," one 14-year-old laughed when asked by the NBC reporter if she'd ever used a pay phone on the city's streets before. As to his follow-up question on whether she even knew what a pay phone was, she replied, with hesitation, "I think so." There are still four full-length "Superman" phone booths scattered around the city, though it's not clear if the phones are in service. LinkNYC also says other functioning pay phones may remain within the city's confines, but on private property. As for the one removed Monday, it's headed for an exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York. (Read more pay phones stories.)

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