Midtown business leaders want to pull the plug on LinkNYC, the WiFi and ad kiosks that they say have become hubs of perversion, harassment and crime.
“I want them removed,” fumed Barbara Blair, the head of the Garment District Alliance, which is grappling with a wave of open heroin use on sidewalks. “There doesn’t seem to be the political will to restore order in the public realm. We’ve ceded the public realm to bad actors.”
Blair said she again wrote to the commissioner of the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) two weeks ago but has yet to get a response. Blair wrote to DoITT several years ago to request that the “troublesome links” be removed.
Blair said there are nine links alone between West 40th and West 36th Street on Eighth Avenue.
“It’s a tremendous redundancy,” she said.
Anthony Mignano, who manages 1450 Broadway, a 42-story office tower located on the corner of West 41st Street, said the homeless “create a living space with chairs, cardboard boxes and tents” at the kiosks.
“They’re sitting there charging their devices, on full speaker, masturbating, sitting on some sort of stolen chair. … Out in the open you see naked homeless people, open drug users using the orange needles the de Blasio regime started,” Mignano said. “That’s all you see everywhere. The sea of orange needles deters people from coming to our retail spaces.”
On Thursday, Mignano pointed out a grate next to the WiFi kiosk that was crammed with used hypodermic needles and broken glass pipes.
Mignano said he’s witnessed two assaults and called 311 “roughly 75 times” since Memorial Day, complaining about homeless encampments at LinkNYC spots in the Garment District. He knows of “five or six guys” who accost women, “shoot up and fall asleep right next to the links.”
“One cop told me,’ [A] guy can literally spit in my face and piss on me, and I can arrest him, but he will be out tonight.’”
“The kiosks are a disaster. They just attract drug dealers and homeless,” said Steve Kaufman, owner of 450 Broadway, a 46-story building located on Seventh Avenue between 34th and 35th streets. “They don’t serve any legitimate purpose.”
Added Mignano: “Every business now provides their own WiFi. There’s no need for the kiosks.”
The revenue the links generate are “far outweighed by the economic damage done to the neighborhoods where you have links,” Blair believes, adding city and state officials “need to restore order.”
The Post last September documented the Garment District’s plight as the city’s newest shooting galley, where heroin addicts shoot up in broad daylight.
On July 14, the NYPD, the Department of Sanitation and city homeless outreach workers cleared the links.
But the problem persists.
“It’s a temporary solution. The kiosks are still there. They are already starting to come back,” Mignano said the following afternoon.
The city announced the LinkNYC program in January 2016, designed to offer free high-speed Internet access at former telephone booths throughout the city. Months after it launched, the project’s operators were forced to add filters to the kiosks after The Post reported that homeless people were using the tablet-equipped street kiosks to access porn.
Over the first two years of the program, the city collected just shy of $43.4 million in payments, narrowly beating the $42.5 million minimum it was guaranteed.
On July 10, Mayor Eric Adams and LinkNYC were in the Bronx to unveil the first Link5G Kiosk in the city.
Despite the latest outcry, Adams does not plan to remove the LinkNYC kiosks anytime soon, according to City Hall.
The administration said it’s “constantly working” to get shelter and services to the homeless, “while also keeping public spaces clean and safe for everyone. … Moving LinkNYC’s progress backwards will not provide any steps forward in helping our community’s most vulnerable,” a spokeswoman for the Mayor said.
As of June 30, the city’s encampment task force had cleared more than 1,400 sites across the five boroughs, the Mayor’s office said.