LinkNYC, the 400 tablet-enabled Wi-Fi hotspots and charging stations which started replacing the city's public phone kiosks earlier this year, announced that it will remove web browsers from its tablets after repeated complaints of vagrants using the free service to view pornography in full view of the public.
The announcement comes just two days after a 41-year-old homeless man was arrested in Murray Hill for using a LinkNYC kiosk for self-pleasure.
"...some users have been monopolizing the Link tablets and using them inappropriately, preventing others from being able to use them while frustrating the residents and businesses around them," according to a statement from CityBridge, the company that runs the kiosks. "The kiosks were never intended for anyone’s extended, personal use and we want to ensure that Links are accessible and a welcome addition to New York City neighborhoods."
Corey Johnson, a Manhattan City Councilman whose district includes West Side neighborhoods Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen, says his office was flooded with complaints after the kiosks went up earlier this year.
According to reports, Johnson wrote a letter to the City's Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications outlining his concerns:
"These kiosks are often monopolized by individuals creating personal spaces for themselves, engaging in activities that include playing loud explicit music, consuming drugs and alcohol, and the viewing of pornography," Johnson's letter read.
On Wednesday Johnson tweeted his thanks to DoITT:
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, who celebrated the arrival of the kiosks in his borough earlier this month, said the removal of web browsers is a good first step towards addressing community concerns.
"We’ve heard a great deal of concern from all corners of the city about the misuse of these kiosks for lewd and nefarious purposes, and today’s announcement that web browsing services will be disabled on LinkNYC kiosks is a step in the right direction," Diaz said. "These kiosks and the connectivity they provide are key to bridging the digital divide in our city, and we must ensure that a handful of less-than-wholesome users do not threaten the success of the entire enterprise. Disabling web browsing will prevent the most objectionable uses of these kiosks and make our streets safer, while also preserving the best parts of the LinkNYC service."