212 area code might leave New York City

Elaine was not please when, in the 175th episode of Seinfeld, her phone number was changed from a 212 area code to a 646 area code. (via YouTube.)
Elaine was not pleased when, in the 175th episode of ‘Seinfeld,’ her phone number was changed from area code 212 to 646. Credit: via YouTube

Some New Yorkers are not happy about a petition by Internet and phone service provider Vonage that seeks to infringe on their iconic 212 area code, according to a report from the New York Post.

The Vonage petition to the Federal Communications Commission seeks to access unused 212 numbers for national use, which would sever the connection between area codes and geographic location.

Coveted 212 phone numbers generally only become available when users move or die, when businesses fail or when carriers go under.

In a memorable “Seinfeld” episode, Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) panics when her 212 number is replaced by 646, and tries to take over her dead neighbor’s 212.

She later tries to defend her new area code to a judgmental man, insisting, “It’s the same as 212. They just multiplied it by three, and then they added one to the middle number.”

Real-life New Yorkers share Elaine’s indignation over being denied 212 phone numbers.

Young rap artist Azealia Banks grew up in Harlem, and references her Manhattan roots in her hit song "212." (via YouTube.)
Young rap artist Azealia Banks grew up in Harlem, and references her Manhattan roots in her hit song “212.” Credit: via YouTube

Sedina Osmanaj, manager at Lumber Liquidators on the Lower East Side, expressed frustration to the Post over her 347 area code, and the idea that non-New Yorkers might be able to clinch the 212.

“212 is synonymous with New York City,” Osmanaj said. “If it goes out of state, it’s just weird.”

Juliana Goldman started a marketing firm called Goldman Network and requested a 212 phone number, but was denied.

“They said that all they had was 917 and 646,” Goldman told the Post. “212 is the signature New York City area code, and I want it.”

Some business owners don’t care one way or another.

“At the end of the day, you get customers because of a great product and great service, not because of the area code,” said co-owner Brooke Siem of Prohibition Bakery in SoHo. “At this point, 646 is just as recognizable for New Yorkers.”

The FCC is expected to rule on Vonage’s petition April 18.

212 on the black market?

Services that allow a user to create an individual phone number do exist, like Skype, Rebtel and Google Voice, and nearly every New York area code is an option — except 212.

There are a fair number of vendors on Craigslist advertising phone numbers with 212 area codes. An anonymous source familiar with that operation said the buyer is usually given prepaid SIM card with a small amount of credit on it, which they can then use to”port” the number, as when an individual switching phone service providers chooses to keep his or her previous phone number.

The Federal Communications Commission did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the legality of this Craiglist operation.

The cultural significance of area codes 

Area codes aren’t just cultural touchstones due to “Seinfeld” — the music world has also shown love for those three digits.

Native Manhattanite Azealia Banks references her Harlem stomping ground in her breakout hit “212,” using the area code as a stand-in for her location (“I was in the 212, on the uptown A…”).

Geography being tied to area codes also figures prominently in Chris “Ludacris” Bridges’ rap ode to the multitude of women he courts, who he apparently keeps track of by their various area codes (“757, 410, my cell phone just overloads”).

At the onset of the video for his song "Area Codes," Chris Bridges calls Nate Dogg, a contributor to the song, to inform him that he's "got all [his] area codes flying in," by which he means female friends from various locations. (via YouTube.)
At the beginning of the music video for his song “Area Codes,” Ludacris calls Nate Dogg, a contributor to the song, to inform him that he’s “got all [his] area codes flying in,” by which he means female friends from various locations. Credit: via YouTube
Got any other references to area codes? Let us know about them in the comments below!

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat


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