Freestanding, walk-in phone booths used to be ubiquitous all over town, but even before cell phones began taking over in the 1990s, street telephones had been replaced for the most part with open-air stanchions. Callers used to be able to walk into a booth, close the door, and talk without being heard. However, in the Swinging Sixties, vandals began their eternal work on the booths, depositing urine and graffiti and slashing the phone books provided as a courtesy by whatever provider was in charge of the telephony service. The stanchions were treated in the same rude fashion, especially after cellphones became nearly universal. New Yorkers treat all nonfunctional street devices such as telephone stanchions and fire alarms as garbage receptacles.
Thus it’s something of a surprise to find four freestanding walk-in booths in NYC, all of them on West End Avenue; the one shown above is on West 66th Street…
…there’s another one on West 90th….
…one more at West 100th….
…and the last of the quartet, at West 101st.
However, all four of them are “retro-booths,” replicas that are made to look like the classic walk-in booths of old. They were installed in 2016 by Intersection, a tech company that is installing the by-now familiar Link kiosks that provide cell phone chargers, public service messages, and other internet services. Unlike booths of old with pay phones, you can use the phones in these booths for free.
At these four corners, there had been four surviving older booths. According to The New York Times, an Upper west Sider named Alan Flacks was instrumental in preserving the booths, petitioning elected officials and calling Verizon, the booths’ old provider, when one or more was out of service.
It wasn’t easy to find freestanding phone booths to replace the originals with. Intersection had to turn to a Canadian dealer to find them, via a company called Clark Specialty in upstate Bath, New York.
Thus far…they’re in good shape.