‘Recalling 1993’ Project Launches at Payphones Around Manhattan [UPDATED]

Posted on: March 27th, 2013 at 10:41 am by

This image has been archived or removed.

Photo: Recalling1993.com

Was 1993 really that long ago? And what do New Yorkers have to say about it?

Apparently, most New Yorkers, as usual, have plenty to say: about life before the internet and cell phones, about running around in crack-era NYC, about politics, art, crime, drugs, clubs and pretty much everything else that defined our city. For those of you who were too young to remember (or didn’t live here then), most New Yorkers also spent a lot of time in 1993 trying to find a pay phone that actually worked.

This image has been archived or removed.

Photo: Lori Greenberg

Which is perhaps the perfect irony in the New Museum’s citywide installation, “Recalling 1993.” The project brings oral histories to 5,000 payphones in Manhattan (yes, there are still that many working payphones left).

To participate, find a phone booth, dial the toll free number, 1-855-FOR-1993, and then listen to a story about the neighborhood you are standing in. By the way, you can’t cheat by calling from a cell phone, although if you go that route, you will get a recording from famous tour guide, philosopher and iconic NYC character, Timothy “Speed” Levitch, who introduces himself and then instructs you to “get off the cell phone you’re calling from, find a street corner, pick up the first payphone you lay eyes on,” and “dial this number again [to] hear what it was like to be a real New Yorker in 1993.”

Story contributors include Mario Batali, Robin Byrd, Brian Lehrer, Fern Mallis, Michael Musto, Chazz Palminteri, James St. James, as well as “regular” New Yorkers, including this reporter.

The pay phone project, which is installed in conjunction with The New Museum’s exhibit “NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star” runs until May 26. The museum’s website features an interactive payphone map and a few verbal snippets of the project.

UPDATE: Due to a number of broken payphones in the East Village and Lower East Side (some things never change), this reporter’s contributions had to be moved to other phones nearby. They are now located at: the N/W corner of 3rd Street & 1st Avenue (hear thrilling tales of drag queen hookers on Houston Street in 1993!), and the S/W corner of Eldridge & Broome (was there really a body found buried in the wall of a building on Eldridge Street?).

Of course, the phone on my corner, itself a topic of MANY stories, is currently broken – and for all I know, has been for at least a few years.

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