They stand on corners from Brighton Beach to the Bronx, all but mocking New Yorkers: Pay phones that may or may not work, which you can’t even check for a dial tone without worrying about germs. ...
There is a reason for their survival: Public telephones are one of the stranger cash cows in city finance. Not because of the coins that are fed into them, but rather because of the millions upon millions that companies are willing to pay to put ads on them.
The phone kiosks generate $62 million in advertising revenue annually — and last year the city got $13.7 million of the take. Last year its income from ads was triple what it pulled in from calls.
--Jo Craven McGinty, NYT, on the enduring value of pay phones in a world of cellphones