By Brian J. Pape, AIA
Have you ever needed a map to show you where you were and where you needed to go in the Village? Have you wondered what we should do now that all the street payphones are gone? Have you wondered what the new sidewalk kiosks sprouting up all over the city are supposed to be for?
The answers to these questions are here. In 2014 the de Blasio administration issued a competitive RFP (request for proposal) to repurpose the payphone infrastructure with free Wi-Fi, phone calls and advertising.
This was an idea that many of us at WestView News had been promoting for years, given the difficulty of navigating the West Village’s streets, and our desire to provide visitors with helpful information.
The CityBridge proposal for LinkNYC was chosen for its innovative and community-first approach and was awarded the first 12-year franchise. New Yorkers and visitors can make free phone calls to anywhere in the U.S. through each of Link’s tablets, including access to 311, 911 and 411.
LinkNYC is programmed to provide useful information on-the-go, including local bus arrival times, wayfinding tips around major events, information about the nearest voting poll site during elections, fun facts about New York City, and more. Each kiosk is built to withstand extreme heat and cold, rain, snow, flooding, earthquakes, vandalism and theft, while conforming to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards.
Key features of the kiosks are:
- Use your personal device to connect to LinkNYC’s super-fast, free Wi-Fi, or charge your device in a power-only USB port.
- Make free phone calls to anywhere in the U.S. using the Vonage app on the tablet or the tactile keypad and microphone. (Plug in your personal headphones for more privacy.)
- Access city services, maps and directions from the tablet.
- Use the dedicated red 911 button in the event of an emergency.
- Link’s ADA-compliant design leaves a bit more room on the sidewalk than older kiosks while using the tactile keypad and microphone.
- Public service announcements and advertising are viewed on two 55” HD display panels.
- Each Link gigabit is powered by an all-new, purpose-built fiber optic network that delivers speeds up to 100 times faster than average public Wi-Fi.
- Through the tablet on the kiosk, people can access City and nonprofit services and get maps and directions.The LinkNYC website counts 1,736 Wi-Fi kiosks installed in NYC as of September 2018. In the West Village the placement is puzzling but it is a strong start. Four are clustered at the West 14th Street and 8th Avenue intersection, with several more going east on 14th Street. Going south on Hudson Street, we see two near the Seravalli Playground (Horatio Street), and one each at Grove Street, Barrow Street, and Leroy Street. On 6th Avenue there are kiosks at Downing Street, West 4th Street, Waverly Place, Jefferson Market, West 12th Street, and West13th Street. Broadway has a few but, otherwise, that’s all for now. When I contacted Link they said many more kiosks will be coming—wherever payphones used to be—so, if there were payphones on Charles Street or elsewhere in the Village, we’ll probably see kiosks there soon.
Give the kiosks a try and provide them with your feedback, and let WestView News know what you think.
Brian J. Pape, AIA, LEED-AP
Green Architect & Historic Specialist
West View News Architectural Editor