Brooklyn Heights

LinkNYC wi-fi kiosks coming to Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights

Discussion about sites at CB2 meeting Tuesday

October 18, 2016 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
This map shows the 13 sites under review in Downtown Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights for new wi-fi Link sites.  Map courtesy of Community Board 2

New Wi-Fi communications kiosks called Links are coming to Downtown Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights.

Already installed by the hundreds in Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens, the tall, narrow installations usually replace phone booths. Some pay phone locations are not optimal for the kiosks, however, and other sites must be approved.

The 13 sites under review in Downtown Brooklyn and the Heights don’t currently have pay phones, and CityBridge, the consortium that runs LinkNYC, is set to discuss the proposed sites with Community Board 2 Transportation and Public Safety Committee meeting Tuesday night. (Oct. 18 at 6 p.m, at at Long Island University, Metcalfe Hall, Jonas Board Room, at Flatbush and DeKalb avenues.) CB2 has been asked to submit comments within 60 days of October 5.

Four of the planned Links would be installed in the Heights: one on Henry Street near Orange Street, and three along Cadman Plaza West between Clark and Montague streets. Four would be clustered between Fulton and Livingston streets and Flatbush Avenue. Five more would run along Fulton Street between S. Portland Avenue and Clinton Avenue.

The kiosks will not be installed on purely residential streets, and the Landmarks Preservation Commission has reviewed the design of the kiosks.

At a Link kiosk, people can use their cell phones or other devices to connect to free Wi-Fi, access city services including 911 and maps, make free phone calls and charge devices. Each Link can support hundreds of Wi-Fi users simultaneously. iPhone users have access to encrypted Wi-Fi; other users can use standard public Wi-Fi. Users must provide an email address.

The Links, however, will no longer allow users to surf the internet from a tablet installed on the station. This capacity was removed in September after numerous Link sites in Manhattan were taken over by homeless, many of whom set up “camps” around the stations and used them to watch porn (sometimes graphically acting out what they were viewing).

At least 7,500 Link kiosks will be installed across all five boroughs over the next eight years, according to CityBridge. The kiosk installations are running a bit behind schedule because of the Verizon strike and litigation regarding some of the old payphones, LinkNYC told the Wall Street Journal.

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The kiosks will be installed at some but not all locations where payphones are now sited. There will be fewer kiosks than pay phones because they will be approximately 100 feet apart, allowing someone using the public wi-fi to maintain a connection if they are walking down a street where kiosks are located.

Two versions of Links are being installed – the very fast 1 gigabit version, which is ad-supported, and a slower, non-ad-supported (100 megabit) version.

A spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office told the Brooklyn Eagle in December 2014, after negotiations with the City Council, that 586 of the fast 1 gigabit kiosks will be installed in Brooklyn by the end of year four.

The kiosks will generate more than $500 million in ad revenue for the city, according to the Mayor’s Office.

How will the kiosks stand up in Brooklyn? According to LinkNYC, each Link is built to withstand extreme heat and cold, rain, snow and flooding, earthquakes, vandalism and theft.

LinkNYC says there’s no need to worry about privacy and security. Users can modify their privacy settings at any time, or opt out altogether, they say, and any data collected is anonymous and aggregated.

CityBridge, whose members include that includes Intersection, Qualcomm and CIVIQ Smartscapes, says they will never sell any personally identifiable information or share with third parties for their own use.

In March, however, New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) Executive Director Donna Lieberman cautioned that CityBridge “retains a vast amount of information about users – often indefinitely – building a massive database that carries a risk of security breaches and unwarranted NYPD surveillance.”

In a letter, NYCLU requested to know if the system’s environmental sensors and cameras will be routinely feeding into any city or NYPD systems, “including the controversial Domain Awareness System,” and contended that users must be specifically notified if this is the case.

On Wednesday, a CityBridge spokesperson assured the Eagle, “Link cameras (which are not currently turned on) do not feed into any NYPD system.”

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Updated Wed. afternoon with a comment from CityBridge.

 

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