A vanishing icon endures on West End Avenue

They were placed on virtually every street corner, tucked into the recesses of numerous bars and ensconced in many a drug store – the kind of pharmacy that had soda fountains dispensing chocolate Cokes and lime rickeys.

You may not recall those iconic installations in such locations, but I do.  And anyone who’s seen Clark Kent transform himself into Superman – who hasn’t? – knows what I’m talking about: The telephone booth, the real thing with an accordion door that turned on a dim overhead light when closed.

It turns out, reports the New York Post, that West End Avenue on the Upper West Side of Manhattan – a thoroughfare overshadowed by distinguished apartment buildings erected before World War II – is the site of the only remaining such booths that still work in the borough.  As a resident of the Upper West Side and a supposedly keen observer, I confess that I never noticed them.

The old-style  booths – at West 66th, 90th, 100th and 101st streets – have been the city’s last ones for several years, Mark Thomas, a phone-booth freak who runs a Web site called The Payphone Project, told the Post.

“One of them was replaced fairly recently, four or five years ago, after somebody sprayed graffiti all over it,” Thomas said.  “If these things ever get spray-painted again, that’ll probably be the end of them.”

According to Verizon, the company keeps the West End Avenue phone booths going with spare parts and has no plans to remove them.  Although indoor ones survive in such locales as the New York Public Library, hotels and restaurants, you may find another hanger-on somewhere.  There’s one on Yankee Pier on Governors Island.  But the phone itself is history.

Let’s hope that the booths on West End Avenue manage to outlast us all.

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Malcolm Carter

Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker

Senior Vice President

Charles Rutenberg Realty

127 E. 56th Street

New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248

F: 347-438-3201



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