High-tech kiosks coming to Bay Ridge

In an effort to replace the payphones of New York City’s past with something more pertinent to today’s needs, the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) will begin roll-out of up to 10,000 LinkNYC kiosks – a first-of-its-kind communications network offering up free Wi-Fi, phone calls, charging stations for mobile phones and more – on both residential and commercial streets.

DoITT, tasked with finding a way to preserve pay phones while making them more useful, partnered in November, 2014 with CityBridge, a conglomerate of companies, which, over the next four to five years, will bring its 10-foot-tall touch-tone kiosks to all five boroughs.

The five-borough LinkNYC network, which will be funded through advertising revenues, will be built at no cost to taxpayers and will generate more than $500 million in revenue for the city over the next 12 years, according to its website.

Still, roll-out will start small, said Community Board 10 Chair Brian Kieran at a general board meeting where the kiosks were debated, with only three to four Links expected to make their way to Bay Ridge this year.

“There’s only going to be a small, small handful in Brooklyn and maybe even a smaller handful in our neighborhood to start,” he said.

Nevertheless, District Manager Josephine Beckmann stressed, these kiosks will one day stand in place of all existing telephone booths citywide.

“Basically, the plan is that they’re going to take [the payphones] out slowly,” she said, “but all phone-booths that exist now will be replaced by these kiosks – every single one.”

When asked for input, some members of CB 10 suggested the kiosks be installed outside of Fourth Avenue subway stations to aid riders – something many argued against, claiming Fourth Avenue “too residential” for the Links’ bright lights and flashy features.

Furthermore, the Fifth Avenue BID suggested that the board make more suggestions than just location – the first being the request that that approximately 20 percent of ad space and time be allocated for local businesses and non-for-profits at a greatly reduced rate, and the second being the request that phone calls be granted a time limit.

Ultimately, the board voted to request that all incoming kiosks be placed along the 86th Street commercial corridor, from Fourth to Sixth Avenues, so that they are not “completely out of character.”

“I just don’t see what the community gains from it – what is this adding to the community, other than advertising, when most people have a cellphone?” asked board member Steve Harrison. “Have we received any complaints about the absence of payphones?”

Despite concerns voiced by some board members, no email login will be required to utilize the kiosks, according to Caitlin Kasunich, media contact for CityBridge, who told this paper, “There will not be a required log-in (email address or other) to engage with any of the functionality on the Link (i.e. 911 calling, general phone calls, web browsing, etc.).”

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