'Recalling 1993': City pay phones take New Yorkers back 20 years

‘Recalling 1993’ turned payphones into time capsules.

Call that number to hear what was happening in NYC 20 years ago. Credit: Droga5 Call that number to hear what was happening in NYC 20 years ago.
Credit: Droga5


Life in New York City during the 1990s was much grimier than it is these days. Rats, drugs and graffiti ruled the streets.


But in 1993 the city began to change, and East Village-based advertising agency Droga5 and the New Museum have teamed up to take us back 20 years using pay phones with "Recalling 1993".


[videoembed id=129289]“What’s one thing that’s on every street corner?” Ray Del Savio, associate creative director at Droga5, asked. “A pay phone, even though no one’s been using them since the '90s.”


"Recalling 1993" turned pay phones into time capsules. Dial 1-855-FOR-1993 from any pay phone in Manhattan, and you’ll hear a recorded message of what was happening in that area, or even on that particular street, two decades ago.

The project was launched in conjunction with the New Museum’s exhibition,“NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star.”

“The exhibit is fantastic,” Del Savio said. “We wanted to do something to promote the show. To take it off Bowery and bring it to every street corner of Manhattan.”

While most New Yorkers probably haven’t picked up a pay phone in years, this new project invites residents to travel back to 1993, a pivotal year in the city’s transformation.

“There was a big mayoral race that was happening at the time,” said Jerry Hoak, associate creative director at Droga5. “The city was cleaning up and there was a greater police presence. The city was changing. It wasn’t as gritty as it used to be.”

Hoak also points out how all aspects of the city influenced the '90s.

“It wasn’t just music and art, it was also politics and celebrities,” he said.

The oral history recounts memories such as Jim Abbott of the New York Yankees pitching a no-hitter, Mario Batali opening his first New York restaurant and the World Trade Center bombing.

Notable New Yorkers, who ran the gamut from celebrities to public figures and even regulars at local bars, lent their voices for the recordings.

The project took about four weeks to complete and has taken over approximately 5,000 pay phones in Manhattan. The recordings range in length, but most range from one to three minutes long.

"Recalling 1993" will run until May 26.

Follow Mary Ann Georgantopoulos on Twitter @marygeorgant

Latest From ...
Most Popular From ...