New York City is a city like no other. It’s lousy with things to see: architectural icons, world-famous parks, A-list celebrities, pigeons, food carts, and pigeons eating off of food carts. With so many sites, it's a real bummer that so many New Yorkers walk around the city staring directly into the hollow glow of their phones. This isn't going to change anytime soon, especially with the de Blasio administration announcing that, starting next year, the city's dated payphone system will become "the world’s fastest municipal Wi-Fi network." The system, called LinkNYC, includes 10,000 individual portals—called "Links"—that offer free Wi-Fi (up to 150 feet away), connections to city and emergency services, charging ports, and city information via a digital screen. These kiosks can even make national calls, just like the good 'ole days. The program is being overseen by CityBridge, a group of technology, design, and advertising firms, and will be entirely funded by advertising. So, from a distance at least, Links will likely appear as an ad for a cologne or an airline. (Links in residential neighborhoods are more slender and feature less prominent ad space.) The plan to replace New York City's aging payphone infrastructure with a more 21st century alternative dates back to the Bloomberg years. Almost two years ago, the former mayor announced the Reinvent Payphones Design Competition "to rally urban designers, planners, technologists and policy experts to create physical and virtual prototypes that imagine the future of New York City’s public pay telephones." That following spring, Sage and Coombe Architects’ NYFi portal won the Popular Choice Award. And then a year later, de Blasio issued an RFP to get the next generation payphone actually up and running. That's where we are now: CityBridge has been selected by the city and installation should start early next year. The system could ultimately include up to 10,000 Links. The de Blasio administration said the LinkNYC program will provide reliable, high-speed Wi-Fi across the five boroughs, and plugs into its underlying fight against inequality. “This administration has been committed to expanding affordable access to broadband for all New Yorkers from the outset," Mayor de Blasio said in a statement. "It's essential for everything we need to do to be a fair and just city, because we can't continue to have a digital divide that holds back so many of our citizens.” But, according to a Daily News report, not all Links will perform the same way, at least not as currently planned. "The speedier systems are flanked by advertising—and advertisers prefer wealthier eyes," explained the publication. "As a result, all of the 2,500-plus locations in Manhattan are high speed, giving the borough with 20 percent of the city’s population fully 65 percent of all the fast kiosks. Meanwhile, the Bronx will get speedy Wi-Fi at 361 kiosks—just 6 percent of the fast Wi-Fi stations in the city. The borough will have slower service at 375 non-advertising kiosks, which replace old payphones." An administration official told the Daily News that they are working to rectify the discrepancy.
Posts tagged with "Payphones":
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has issued an RFP to create a network of free, outdoor Wi-Fi hotspots across all five boroughs. The network would become one of the largest in the country, and have a significant impact on the city’s streetscape. That's because the plan transforms New York's aging system of payphones—commonly known today as al fresco "toilets"—with what are being described by the city as public connection points. "By using a historic part of New York’s street fabric, we can significantly enhance public availability of increasingly-vital broadband access, invite new and innovative digital services,” said Mayor de Blasio in a statement. This RFP dates back to last year's Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge, which asked designers to envision ways to make payphones useful in the 21st Century. Sage and Coombe Architects won that competition with a proposal for a sleek communications portal called NYFi (pictured at top). According to the city, designs received through the RFP “will be evaluated on the basis of functional efficiency, aesthetics, security, durability, adaptability for various environments around the city—including historic districts and individual landmarks—and accommodation of people with disabilities.” While the 10,000 portals will certainly impact the city’s physical landscape, it will truly transform its digital landscape—whether or not we see it happening. Thanks to a pretty incredible visualization project called Immaterials: Light Painting Wifi, we can get a sense of the spatial realities of Wi-Fi. It is simultaneously profound, stunning, and invisible. Responses to the RFP are due by the end of June and the city plans to sign a contract by the end of this year.
The people have spoken (well, “clicked”) and the votes are in—NYFi wins the Popular Choice Award for Mayor Bloomberg’s “Reinvent the Payphone Design Challenge!” The winners of the Connectivity, Visual Design, Creativity, Functionality, and Community Impact categories were announced in early March but the Popular Choice winner was decided last week by public vote via the City of New York’s Facebook page. If Sage and Coombe Architect’s NYFi portal is chosen to take the place of the space-consuming single-function payphones dotting Manhattan’s sidewalks, pedestrians will be granted free access to an interactive portal that provides public information, free wireless Internet access, and transportation services (including metro card and bus ticket dispensers). The NYFi was designed in two sizes: a ten-foot model for commercial districts and a smaller version for residential neighborhoods. The communications hub features life-sized iPhone-esque qualities such as a minimalist design, a touch screen, and apps, which can be upgraded to respond to the rapidly changing needs of New York City.
Craving an adventure? The New Museum dares you to travel back in time to 1993 by picking up many of thousands of Manhattan payphones and dialing the toll-free number 1-855-FOR-1993. You’ll find yourself checking your surroundings as you’re immersed into an oral history of what it was like to live on that block in 1993. The project, “Recalling 1993” is part of a larger exhibition at museum entitled NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star, named after the rock band, Sonic Youth’s eighth album recorded in 1993. The organizers of the project connected 5,000 Manhattan payphones to voice recordings left from some of the most popular personalities of the 90’s including comedian Doug E. Doug, former porn actress Robin Byrd, party promoter and club kid James St. James, radio talk show host Brian Lehrer, and CUNY’s Suzanne Wasserman. Hearing their voices recount stories of major events such as the World Trade Center bombing in the Financial District, or a wild night out at the infamous club, Limelight, in Chelsea will either leave you longing for what was or leave you feeling grateful that we’ve come such a long way. Several of the recordings recall some not-so-fond memories of a much more dangerous New York City. For example, Fernando Mateo, President of the New York State Federation of Taxi Driver remembers, “Nineteen ninety-three was a war zone in New York. Cabbies were being killed, 30 to 60 a year.” But not all the recollections are negative. Sister Kevin, who was once the director of the school of nursing at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village, identifies 1993 as the year in which healthcare facilities started to have greater control of the AIDS crisis. Together, the four and a half hours of voice recordings paint an accurate picture of New York during an undoubtedly pivotal year in the 1990s.
The “payphone"—like subway tokens—is a word that has increasingly become synonymous with an older New York. It’s been years since many of us have even stepped into, let alone used, one of those bulky, eerily abandoned and, let's face it, uninviting, telephone booths peppering New York City’s sidewalks. But unlike subway tokens, the payphone is making a comeback. In 1999, The City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications signed a contract regarding the maintenance of New York public payphones, but since the contract expires on October 15, 2014, Mayor Bloomberg established the Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge, inviting urban planners, designers, students, and technologists to come up with a new design for the city's 11,000 payphones that will reflect Manhattan's changing aesthetics and provide an answer to the increasingly demanding digital needs of the modern-day New Yorker. Over 125 submissions, and 11 finalists later, the judges finally selected 6 winners at last night’s Payphones Demo Day which took place at social-product-development company Quirky. Winners were named for each of five categories: Creativity, Connectivity, Visual Design, Community Impact, and Functionality. A popular Choice award, to be announced on March 15, will be decided by a public vote. FX FOWLE’s NYC Loop took home the prize for Creativity. The design preserves the signature “booth” feature of the traditional payphone but adds several modern twists. Equipped with a WiFi hub, smart screen, and sound harmonizing technology, The Loop allows users to momentarily step out of Manhattan’s mayhem and into a semi-private space to make a call. The design also features an "information puddle" that spills on to the sidewalk, creating opportunities to advertise local events and allowing passersby to access information such as maps and transit services. Sage and Coombe Architects' design for the NYfi was awarded the prize for Connectivity. The NYfi is a sleekly designed interactive portal with a digital touch-screen display featuring applications that will allow pedestrians to access public information, transportation services, emergency assistance, and a free Wi-Fi connection. A flexible infrastructure permits the future addition of applications, allowing the portal to adapt to the growing and continuously changing needs of New York City. The Visual Design award went to frog design's Beacon proposal, which bills itself as "New York City’s next generation open communications platform." Acting as a communication hub, Beacon is powered by solar cells and includes LED information screens and speakers and can be controlled by voice and gestures using an array of sensors and directional microphones. When awarding the Community Impact award the judges found two submissions to be equally worthy, resulting in a tie. The most prominent feature of the Control Group and Titan’s NYC I/O: Responsive City design is that, besides providing passerby with community information on a daily basis, during emergencies the portal transforms into an information kiosk that will direct pedestrians to local shelters and provide important evacuation instructions. Additionally, the portals run on solar energy and are therefore supplied with constant power, a feature that will be particularly useful during emergencies. The second Community Impact prize was awarded to a group of students from NYU ITP, Cooper Union, and Parsons who designed the Windchimes. The minimalist three-panel design and push-button features slightly recall the classic form of the old payphones. A distributed environmental sensor network encourages a sustainable future for New York City. Lastly, the design for Smart Sidewalks by a team comprised of members from Syracuse University, UC Davis, Parsons, Rama Chorpash Design, and Cheng + Snyder, took home the award for Functionality. The slender hub, which is powered by solar panels, supports free WiFi connection, features a touch screen allowing access to weather information and historical photos and information on specific neighborhoods, and allows passers by to charge their cell phones. Using a color-code system, strips of LED lights spill onto the sidewalks and update pedestrians on local events according to their location. The sixth award, the Popular Choice Award, will be announced on March 15th, after the public submits their vote on their favorite design via the City of New York’s Facebook page.
With the current rise of smartphones and tablet technology, it is easy for coin-operated payphones to be cast aside as archaic tools of urban communication, but with over 11,000 functioning payphones dotted across New York City alone, these sidewalk staples have become ubiquitous in the urban landscape. And as was a lesson during Hurricane Sandy and other disasters, the payphone can serve as a reliable back-up when cell phone batteries die. But can the payphone be updated to thrive in the 21st century? New York City is enlisting designers to rethink the role of payphones in today's New York City, with Mayor Michael Bloomberg officially announcing the "Reinvent Payphones" competition last week. The design competition announcement comes at a time when payphones are already in the midst of change with various pilot projects in motion across the boroughs. As reported by Gigaom in late November, 250 public payphones are already receiving makeovers and being converted into large iPad-like screens. The touch screen platforms offer one alternative to the outdated payphone but they aren’t the only idea in the works. Back in July, CNNTech reported that some NYC payphones are being revived as free Wi-Fi hotspots as part of another Mayor Bloomberg initiative to expand Wi-Fi accessibility around the NYC area. The current "Reinvent Payphones" design challenge hopes to finish just in time for the revision of current payphone vendor agreements, which will expire in 2014 and allow new opportunities for system changes. Judges will evaluate visual traits as well as practical traits of each submission including connectivity, functionality, and community impact. The challenge is open to all U.S citizens 18 years of age or older and all entries must be submitted by February 18th, 2013. For more information and to register for the NYC Reinvent Payphones competition, click here.