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Consents & Variances

Resolution on 2014 Pay Phone Contracts

WHEREAS, The New York City contracts on Public Pay Phones will come to term in 2014 and will need to be renegotiated by the City and approved by the City Council; and

WHEREAS, This is an opportunity for the City to require the franchisees to provide a public pay telephone that is more of a product of our times; and

WHEREAS, The public pay telephones currently installed on New York city sidewalks are based on a 50-year-old technology and provide a service for which it's utility and usage has steadily declined; the low usage can be seen as an indicator that technology has advanced, with 96% of the US population currently owning a cell or smart phone; and

WHEREAS, A large proportion of public pay phones have fallen into disrepair because of the low usage, with up to 40% of the phones in some districts having no dial tones or severely damaged booths; and

WHEREAS, Many communities are concerned that these installations have become a magnet for crime or public disturbances, without the community having the option to remove the most problematic of these installations; and

WHEREAS, The large majority of these installations has increased in size and in concentration to facilitate larger advertising spaces and higher revenues; and

WHEREAS,  With sidewalk space at a premium; (competing with rapid transit shelters, muni-meters, trees, newsstands, news boxes, sidewalk cafes, etc.) the space that these large installations occupy is adding to the ever-growing issues of pedestrian safety and right-of-way; and

WHEREAS, With the contracts on public pay phones coming due, this may be the last opportunity the city has to affect significant and meaningful change for some time;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that Community Board Five recommends that the New York City Department of Information and Technology should replace existing phone booths with more current technologies to provide a more useful and better service to New York City communities as part of the new contract to be signed in 2014; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the new appliances provide a menu of real benefits that each community could choose from: including 911 and 311 free access, pedestrian lighting, Wi-Fi, cell battery fast-charge, online search access, arts or community announcements, etc.; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the new installations' footprint should reflect the current technology trends in miniaturization and should incorporate current state-of-the-art payment methods and problem management systems with full transparency, reporting to the public at a Community District basis; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that current installations should not be grandfathered and the contract should allow for a reduction in the number of installations and for approval and removal processes similar to those used for other street furniture like newsstands, including a Community Board comment and review period; as neighborhoods change and develop, the need for Public Pay Telephones also change and should be evaluated at a 'community level' and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the New York City Department of Information and Technology should launch, as soon as possible, a design competition for the new appliances with a selection panel including representatives of Community Boards and Department of Transportation; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Community Board Five strongly recommends that any such new design, housing, or telecommunication appliance should be American made manufactured.

The above resolution passed by a vote of 35 in favor; 0 opposed; 1 abstaining.

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