A September 21st Press Release from Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol’s office announced that NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill has equipped the 94th Precinct with additional resources. Following the deadly stabbing of George Carroll in August, and the proliferation of hateful symbolism in McGolrick Park throughout the summer, the department has granted the 94th six new officers (with seven more on the way in December), and upgraded surveillance cameras around McGolrick Park. Now, it seems that the 94th Precinct must contend with an unforeseen adversary: LinkNYC Kiosks.
The Kiosks debuted in Manhattan in March 2016, and made their way to Greenpoint this July. The sleek towers are the city’s 21st century answer to the public phone booths that were once ubiquitous across the five boroughs. The Link network will be the largest and fastest free public wifi network in the world. In addition to wifi, the kiosks offer free phone calls to anywhere in the US, with access to 311, 411 and 911, as well as charging portals, and free access to city services, maps and directions.
Mayor de Blasio calls the Link network “the wifi network New York City deserves,” and the City sees the network as a matter of equity: a 2014 municipal study found that nearly 30% of New Yorkers lacked an internet connection faster than dial-up. The Mayor added, “internet access is not a luxury…it’s something everybody needs.”
While the Kiosks initially appeared to be an entirely positive addition to New York’s streets, they have quickly drawn criticism from residents throughout the city for being magnets for crime, loitering and public intoxication. As early as September 2016, web browsing was disabled on the Kiosks’ screens because the City received a deluge of complaints that people were using the screens to watch porn.
Since the screens arrived in Greenpoint in July, they have drawn the ire of the community for being virtual drug dens. According to DNAinfo, people have been using the Link Kiosk on Manhattan Avenue between Huron and India Streets to schedule drug purchases. Further, local business owners contend that littering and loud arguments in front of the kiosks discourage people from frequenting nearby shops. That said, the system provided 163,000 wifi sessions in Greenpoint during August alone. The City continues to tweak the system so that the Link network will be a welcome addition to New York’s neighborhoods.