New York’s payphones make an unlikely comeback

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New York City’s pay phones are dwindling in numbers – but apparently they are making a comeback.

Despite the glut of smartphones, revenue from advertising on pay phones is on the upswing, according to the New York City Independent Budget Office.

Ad revenue from phone booths has risen 18 percent, from $14.1 million in 2008, to $16.6 million as of January 2013, based on data compiled by the budget office.

That’s even as pay phones seem doomed to disappear from the urban landscape.

Not surprisingly, the amount of revenue collected from calls has steadily declined in the same time.

The number of pay phones scattered throughout the five boroughs has plummeted by nearly 50 percent, from 21,824 in 2008, to 11,249 as of January 2013, according to the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications.

The city collects 10 percent of revenue from calls placed from pay phones and 36 percent of revenue from ads.

The DOITT has also issued a request from vendors to come up with ideas to reinvent the pay phone.

In New York, Manhattan boasts the largest number of pay phones, with 5,509, down from 8,260 in 2008. In second place is Brooklyn, which has lost 3,156 pay phones and currently has 2,114. Staten Island is dead last with just 102 pay phones, according to the DOITT.

“If … these new programs that include new ideas for pay phones could generate new revenue, that could help the city,” said IBO Deputy Director George Sweeting.

“Every dollar counts,” he added.

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