Home / National News / Pay Phone Makes a Post-Sandy Comeback


(NEW YORK) — When the power’s knocked out, when your iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry are dead on arrival, who ya’ gonna call? Whoever it is, you’re gonna do it by pay phone.

Yes, that fossilized, possibly germ-laden, coin-slot contraption that first came to market in 1889 is back with a vengeance, thanks to Sandy and her destructive force.  Indeed, it’s safe to say that the pay phone is among New York City’s most prized possessions right now, allowing millions of communication-starved inhabitants the chance to reach out and touch someone, anyone.

“Phones that normally do two dollars a day are taking in $50 a day,” Peter Izzo of Van Wagner Communications, one of 13 local pay-phone-operating franchises, told the Wall Street Journal.

Not that they all know how to use them. For many people born in the latter 20th century, the pay phone might be as mystifying as two tin cans and a string.

Alison Caporimo, 24, a magazine editor who lives in the East Village of Manhattan, had never used one before Tuesday. She found it challenging. “I lost a lot of coins,” she told the Journal.

What’s more, many people, who rely on electronic contacts rather than memory, had to resort to handwritten notes to remember phone numbers. Oscar Guzman, 34, who created a makeshift office out of his neighborhood pay phone in the West Village, called it a “nightmare.” “The audio is awful,” he told the Journal.

There are about 12,000 pay phones in New York today, 27,000 fewer than 20 years ago, according to the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, which regulates New York City pay phones. That number will most likely decrease after October 2014, when the contracts for the companies that own and operate pay phones in New York expire.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


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