Right number: Verizon returns pay phone after outcry

By Jay Braman Jr.
Following a page one story in the Catskill Mountain News, Verizon has done an about face on the removal of area payphones.
It was reported last week that Verizon Technicians removed the payphone from out in front of the Big Indian Service Center, a phone used frequently in this noncellular area. Verizon planned to remove the other eight phones in the Town of Shandaken by Sept. 18 and the company hoped to eliminate 90 percent of all pay phones in Ulster County by Sept. 25.
When word reached Ulster County and State officials last week, Verizon’s plan changed very quickly.
“When the pay phone in Big Indian was disconnected, I immediately called Ulster County Executive Mike Hein,” said Chuck Perez, owner of the service center.
“With his involvement and that of Senator John Bonacic’s office, Verizon was asked to replace the phone, taking care of the problem within days. Having Mike Hein’s voice for the people of Ulster County makes working with companies like Verizon much, much easier.”
Over the years, the pay phone In Big Indian had been the source of numerous emergency calls to the county’s 911 system. Perez, a volunteer firefighter and proprietor, said he had personally made several emergency 911 calls utilizing the phone.
In a prepared statement Ulster County Executive Hein said, “I would like to thank the Verizon company for reconsidering and for keeping this critical communications option available for everyone in the Shandaken area.”
But that is not all. Hein also used the opportunity to convince Verizon to take another look at locating cellular service on the now vacant cell tower built last year in Shandaken. To date the tower’s owner, Mariner Tower Inc., has been unable to get Verizon or any other service provider to commit to setting up service on the site.
“I also hope additional cellular and emergency call coverage will be forthcoming,” Hein added. “We will also be working with the various carriers to identify vacancies on other facilities where service is either lacking or inadequate.”
Ulster County Legislator Don Gregorius, whose district includes the area of Route 28 in question said, “Telephone communication is extremely important. Those of us who have access to the emergency and convenient use of telephone service take it for granted, until we don’t have it.”