Area codes 212 and 646
212 was one of the original area codes when they were assigned in 1947. To save time for its operators, the North American Numbering Plan Administrator and Bell System gave the shortest prefixes (by number of rotary dial pulses) to the most called destinations. For this reason, New York City was given an area code with five pulses, the fewest that could be dialed under NANPA's original guidelines (0 and 1 were not allowed as the first digit, the second digit was either 0 or 1, and the third digit could not be the same as the second digit). Before 1995, all AT&T-assigned area codes had 2-9 as the first digit and 0 or 1 as the second digit, with X11 reserved for information numbers.
For most of the next four decades, New York City was the world's largest local calling zone. On September 1, 1984, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island were split off as area code 718, leaving Manhattan and the Bronx in 212. In 1992, the Bronx was shifted to 718, reducing 212 to cover most of Manhattan. The entire city was overlaid with area code 917 in 1992 (originally as a mobile exchange), and the 212 territory was overlaid with area code 646 in Manhattan in 1999 when new 917 mobile numbers became scarce.
While 212 is the primary Manhattan land line area code, few or no 212 numbers are available to new subscribers. Newer land lines in Manhattan therefore are relegated to 917 (or 646). In addition, the Inwood section in far northern Manhattan is overlaid with area code 347, which also began as a cell phone area code.
One Manhattan neighborhood, Marble Hill, is not in the 212 area code but the 718/347/929 codes. Marble Hill, although legally a part of Manhattan to this day, was geographically severed from Manhattan by the construction of the Harlem River Ship Canal in 1895. It was physically connected to the Bronx in 1914 when the by-passed segment of the Harlem River was filled in. When the Bronx shifted to 718 in 1992, Marble Hill residents fought to stay in 212, but lost. Marble Hill's trunk is wired into the Bronx line, and it would have been too expensive for New York Telephone to rewire it.
A business with a 212 area code is often perceived as having stability and roots in Manhattan, particularly if a number has been in service for many decades. One famous example is PEnnsylvania 6-5000; as the number (now +1-212-736-5000) appears in a 1940 Glenn Miller Orchestra song title, it predates the 1947 creation of the original North American area codes.
The scarcity of available telephone numbers beginning with the 212 prefix (such numbers are no longer readily available from telecom providers), combined with the code's origin as the city's original area code, result in the 212 code having a prestigious cachet in the eyes of some Manhattan residents. This cachet was a minor plot point in the Seinfeld episode "The Maid".
In August 2010, AT&T reported that there were no phone numbers available in the 212 area code. Those who are determined to have a 212 area code now must rely on luck of the draw when they establish their service or on websites where they can purchase the highly coveted area code to port to their land line or cell phone service.
In episode 514 of The Simpsons, Homer refers to area code 212 when he asks if Satan's number falls on that area code when he tries to give him a call.
In Season 5 Ep 3 of Supernatural, pausing on Sam's phone will reveal that Dean has a 212 phone number.
- Nelson, Katie (2011-03-25). "New Jersey man hawks his (212) phone number on eBay - wants $1 million for swanky area code". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2011-03-31.
- Span, Paula (1999-07-06). "Six-What? New Area Code Lacks the Status of 212". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-09-27.
- Kugel, Seth (2005-03-20). "The 212 Cachet: Now Available on Cellphones". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-09-27.
- Waxler, Caroline (2010-08-10). "212 Lust: Old Phone Numbers Are New Thing in Tech Scene". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2011-03-31.
- North American Numbering Plan Administration
- NANPA Area Code Map of New York
- List of exchanges from AreaCodeDownload.com, 212 Area Code
- Interactive Map of Area Code 212
|New York area codes: 212, 315, 347, 516, 518, 585, 607, 631, 646, 716, 718, 845, 914, 917, 929|
|North: 347/718/917, 914, 845, 203/475|
|West: 201/551, 908, 973/862||area code 212/646 partially covered and surrounded by 917||East: 347/718/917, 516, 631|
|New Jersey area codes: 201, 551, 609, 732, 848, 856, 862, 908, 973|
|Connecticut area codes: 203, 475, 860|