Lonely Planet Writer

Now you can charge your phone on benches in New York City's popular Highbridge Park

The chance to refuel your feet while recharging your phone when you are on the go in New York has now become a reality, as new smart benches are being installed in one of the city’s most popular parks.

New York City’s Parks Department has announced that they will be installing five ‘Soofa’ benches in the city’s Highbridge Park, which sits along the banks of the Harlem River with entrances to it in both Manhattan and the Bronx.

The first of the five solar powered benches
The first of the five solar powered benches Image by Soofa

The first of the five solar-powered benches – which allows you to charge your phone for free – was installed on Tuesday with the rest due to be in place by the end of June, according to NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver.

The benches can seat up to three adults at a time and come equipped with two solar powered USB ports, allowing the public to plug in their smartphones or devices to get some clean, free energy while on the go.

The smart urban appliances will also come equipped with technology to measure the volume of people visiting the park, but will not record any personal data.

Mr. Silver officially unveiled the project at the Parks Without Borders conference earlier this week and it is understood that his department is spending $24,000 on the project.

High Bridge walkway, from High Bridge Park, located in Washington Heights
High Bridge walkway, from High Bridge Park, located in Washington Heights Image by Getty Images

“These Soofa benches will provide a look forward into the future of parks,” said Commissioner Silver.

“We know just how valuable the use of technology is and how important it is in our day-to-day experience – and these benches tap into that power by allowing us to measure park useage and engagement while protecting parkgoers privacy and providing a vital service.”

Found another #soofabench out in the wild in #losangeles @mysoofa both USB ports working! Thanks for the charge! @lagreatstreets

A photo posted by Josh Paget (@newurbanismfilmfestival) on Mar 14, 2016 at 11:15am PDT

The brightly coloured Soofa benches were first developed by a team of researchers from Changing Environments, a group of engineers associated with the MIT Media lab.

The Soofa first made it’s debut on the streets of Boston in 2014 and 150 benches now feature in 12 US states and five countries.

The smart bench has even got the backing of outgoing US President Barack Obama, who was pictured sitting on it after inviting it’s founders to the Maker Faire on the grounds of the White House.