By BETHAN MCKERNAN
NEW YORK (AP) -- It's a message busy New Yorkers hate to get: the low-battery message on your cellphone when there's no charger in sight.
Now that could be a thing of the past. New York City has teamed up with AT&T to install 25 solar-powered charging stations for public use, available for free in parks and beaches across the five boroughs over the summer. The program launched at Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn on Tuesday.
The "Street Charge" stations will be in place in New York until September, but if the pilot goes well they could become a permanent fixture.
The idea came about after Superstorm Sandy, said AT&T New York State President Marissa Shorenstein. Lack of power after the storm left New Yorkers desperately searching for somewhere to charge their phones to contact friends and loved ones. The blackout led people to walk for miles or line up to use daisy chained power strips.
"After Sandy we met with the Mayor and asked what we could do to help," she said. "This technology is designed for both good times and bad.
AT&T is paying for the stations, with no cost to the city.
Solar power manufacturer Goal Zero and Brooklyn design company Pensa partnered up to create the Street Charge stations. The seven-foot silver poles have three flat solar panel arms on top, with stands at waist-height to charge up to six devices at a time. The stations can also charge tablets and other mobile devices.
The solar technology uses monocrystalline power cells and can fully charge up to 30 phones before it needs some juice of its own - even during the night or under cloudy skies.
Solar power is widely used for charging devices in developing nations. The battery cells in Street Charge units were developed by Goal Zero in the Democratic Republic of Congo, said a spokesman for the company.
"This is a very exciting moment for solar," said Joe Atkin, Goal Zero's CEO. "It shows that solar is convenient. It has a place in our everyday lives."
The first stations are already up in Union Square, Central Park, and Fort Greene Park.
Walking with her daughter in Fort Greene Park on Tuesday, Suzane Vera said she is in favor of what she called yet another green initiative for the city. She just wished the park's station wasn't right at its entrance.
"I'd prefer it somewhere else," she said.
More stations will be rolled out across the city over the next few weeks.