Awhile ago, a reader alerted me to the fact that the bank of payphones on the back of the NYPD station in Times Square has vanished.
from flashsear's flickr & another shot here
I finally got up there and, indeed, a peek behind the station reveals a definite lack of payphones, the old orange tiles from the mosaic paved over in white:
from my flickr
Since the advent of cell phones, pay phones all over the city are beginning to vanish and will probably continue to do so until they are gone completely. But this particular bunch of phones was special because it's been featured in film, including a scene in Scorsese's brilliant and prescient King of Comedy.
Robert DeNiro, playing Rupert Pupkin, uses a phone here as his "office." Having one of the only functioning phones, Pupkin is forced to defend it from an angry group of Times Square characters, all of them anxious to make their calls. (Notice Souvlaki King in the background; Playland arcade was to the left, offscreen in this shot.)
In the DVD extras, Sandra Bernhard discusses the use of such characters in the film, saying, "New York has become so gentrified, I think you don't see as many marginalized characters that you would have 10, 15, 20 years ago... They're real New York characters that couldn't exist anywhere else. Nobody expected those kinds of characters to disappear from the landscape of New York City...nobody expected Times Square to become Disneyland."
We're not only becoming payphoneless--much sadder, someday we will also be utterly Pupkinless.