Wi-Fi Set to Expand to 19 More City Parks

Free Wi-Fi service will be made available in 19 more city parks, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced on Thursday in East Harlem, which would more than double the number of parks with Wi-Fi.

“It works,” the mayor declared in Thomas Jefferson Park, raising his iPad with both hands. “This is technology.”

Internet service, accessible through and paid for by AT&T Wi-Fi, started in three city parks Thursday: Thomas Jefferson Park, Battery Bosque in Battery Park, and the north-end playground in Joyce Kilmer Park in the Bronx.

Arrangements for Wi-Fi in the additional 16 parks, including multiple “hot spots” in Central Park, would be finalized by the end of the summer, the mayor said. (For a complete list, see below.)

“More New Yorkers will now be able to take their office outdoors,” he added. “This is central for economic growth.”

All park goers will be able to connect via AT&T’s network — not just those who are already customers. Mr. Bloomberg also assured the public that there would be “no ads from AT&T filling up your browser window.” AT&T did not disclose the estimated costs of the five-year agreement.

For nearly a decade, the city has attempted to spread Internet access in public spaces, with varying success. Some private initiatives, like the Bryant Park Corporation’s wireless access plan, which began in 2002, continue to operate smoothly.

For the city, though, forging partnerships with private wireless companies has proved challenging. In 2004, Verizon was selected to build and maintain Wi-Fi networks in parks across all five boroughs. The company backed out a month later. An arrangement with Wi-Fi Salon, the contractor that replaced Verizon, collapsed in 2008 after the company failed to attract corporate sponsors.

“This is better-invested, much better equipment,” said Robert Garafola, the Parks Department’s deputy commissioner for management and budget. “Also, the technology has matured.”

Before Thursday, there were 13 parks equipped with Wi-Fi, the parks department said.

Many local residents said they believed the project was a worthy one, despite the past hiccups.

“Starbucks, McDonald’s — they all have it,” said Lloyd Stewart, 59, an electrician from the Bronx who was just outside the park. “A park should definitely have it. Kids just stay in the house all day. Now they can come outside for their projects.”

Assemblyman Robert J. Rodriguez, flanking Mayor Bloomberg and AT&T’s chief executive, Randall Stephenson, in Thomas Jefferson Park, lauded the measure for “closing the technology gap” in low-income neighborhoods.

Asif Awan, a limo driver who was sitting on a bench in the park, said he saw particular benefits for working parents.

“I’m a businessman,” he said. “If I can bring my son to the park and also work, that makes a big difference.”

The 19 parks where Wi-Fi will be added are:

The 13 parks that already have Wi-Fi are:

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