After more than 5 years of work by CB4 and CHEKPEDS, the contract for the replacement of phone booths by WiFi “Links” was approved last week by the Commission for Franchises after DoiTT signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the five Borough presidents. This MOU gives Community Boards a consultative role for the installation of new appliances and for the conversion of existing ones. It explicitly allows for the removal and relocation of appliances when there is an excessive number of installations in relation to the sidewalk crowding . Borough President Brewer’s staff did a marvelous job all along this battle and in the last hours of the negotiation. We cannot thank them enough for their help. This was not easy.
In 2005 CB4 sent to DoITT a resolution calling adopting new rules for placement of phone booths to preserve pedestrian pathways. After unsuccessfully requesting a number of removals, we learned that a lawsuit was blocking any action but the contract would be extended in 2011. 2011 arrived but to our dismay, DoiTT had renewed the contract without any public input.We then turned our sights to 2014 where the contract would be renegotiated and presumably would require a vote by the City Council.
In early 2011, CB4 convened a borough-wide task force of other community boards and Business Improvement Districts who were concerned about the proliferation of phone booths on very crowded sidewalks. Chekpeds sought community input on which phone booths should be removed, CB4 discussed new contract guidelines for phone booths. This resulted in December 2011 in a Borough Board Resolution to encourage a new design, new technology and new rules, many of which I am glad to report have been adopted.
In 2012, under the impetus from the borough board resolution and then council Member Gale brewer, DoiTT send out an RFI and CB4 started to map the phone booths that should be removed. CB4 passed a resolution documenting its recommendations for the new phone booths including a detailed redeployment plan.
A Design competition was convened by DoiTT in early 2013, which brought designers and technology experts to the challenge. The public voted on the Phone of the Future. Finally in early 2014 an RFP was issued, and in November 2014 a new Link contract was proposed. CB4 gave its comments over Thanksgiving weekend and testified in early December. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed in mid December .
We could not be more pleased to see a reduction in unwanted street furniture and an increase in pedestrian space!
We will be in touch to implement these changes in 2015!