Bay Ridge leaders wonder where city is building wi-fi kiosks
Technology hubs to replace old, outdated phone booths
The city’s plan to tear down old, outdated telephone booths and replace them with gleaming, state-of-the-art kiosks that would provide free wi-fi is getting a great deal of attention in Bay Ridge, a neighborhood that still has dozens of phone booths on its sidewalks.
“There are 58 pay phone sites here. They are no longer in working order,” Jayne Capetanakis, chairman of the Traffic and Transportation Committee of Community Board 10, told board members at their March 16 meeting.
It’s too soon to tell exactly where the kiosks, which will be Links, would be erected. But community board members said that with 58 non-working phone booths in Bay Ridge, the city has plenty of possible sites from which to choose.
Under a plan approved by the city in December, a public-private partnership called LinkNYC would build Links all over the city that would provide free Wi-Fi, as well as allow cell phone users to make free phone calls anywhere within the U.S. The Links located in commercial districts would contain ports to allow users to charge their mobile devices. The kiosks would also contain touch screens for people to obtain directions or access city services.
The construction of the citywide network of Links is expected to begin this year. Approximately 500 Links will be installed around the city during the first year of the program, the Brooklyn Eagle reported in December.
By the end of the fourth year, Brooklyn is expected to have 586 Links.
The franchise agreement between the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications and an entity known as CityBridge calls for the Links to be funded privately by selling ads that would appear on the faces of the kiosks.
Capetanakis, delivering a report on the project on behalf of Community Board 10 Communications Committee Chairman Michael Festa, who was unable to attend the meeting, said the city expects that the Links will generate $500 million in revenue over the next 10 years.
The Links will be maintained every two weeks, Capetanakis said. The program is expected to generate between 100 and 150 full time jobs and 650 part-time positions.
The Links will be tall, according to Capetanakis, who said some of the kiosks will be 10 feet tall and one and a half feet wide while others will be nine feet tall and three feet wide.
Some community board members raised concerns over the height of the Links.
“They’re putting the same 10-foot- tall model in a residential community like Bay Ridge that they’re putting in mid-town Manhattan. I don’t understand why there’s only one model to choose from,” Liz Amato told the Brooklyn Eagle.
Another board member, Dean Rasinya, asked if the height could be reduced. Josephine Beckmann, the community board’s district manager, said that prospect was unlikely.
“My understanding is that this contract has already been let,” she said.
The board didn’t take a position on the city’s plan. Instead, the Communications Committee plans to meet on April 13 with representatives of local business and civic groups, like the Merchants of Third Avenue, the Fifth Avenue Board of Trade and the Shore Road Parks Conservancy.
Caitlin Kasunich, a spokeswoman for CityBridge, told the Eagle that a decision has not yet been made as to where the Links will be built.
“CityBridge continues to work with the city of New York and community boards to work out the exact locations,” she wrote in an email.
Nicholas Sbordone, director of communications for the New York City Dept. of Information Technology and Telecommunications, contacted the Brooklyn Eagle after the article was posted and offered clarifications on two points.
1) It will not be necessary to have a cell phone to make free calls from the Links. Users will be able to make free calls anywhere in the US directly from the Links without the need for a cell phone. They can use the multidirectional speaker each Link will be equipped with or simply plug in their headphones and make a call.
2) The Links will be maintained twice a week, not once every two weeks.
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