The replacing of the Stars and Stripes flying above the two spans of the Brooklyn Bridge with bleached white flags on Tuesday appears to be a baffling stunt that amazed New Yorkers and aroused fears of a tie to terrorism.
The white flags, first spotted by construction workers around 5:30 a.m, do not appear to have connection to a nefarious plot or political message, NYPD officials said.
“At this point it appears that it has no particular nexus to terrorism or even politics," said John Miller, deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism. “This may be somebody's art project, or maybe an attempt at making some kind of statement, but at this point it is not clear with that statement is.”
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said, “Needless to say no matter what the motive was, that is a matter of concern. I'm not particularly happy about the event.”
Besides the mystery of who the perps are, the larger questions is how they managed to climb the towers and not get caught while doing so.
Miller believed the perpetrators may have had experience in climbing, construction or bridge work, or previously been on top of the towers to learn the dimensions.
“There's some indication of some good deal of pre-operational planning,” Miller said.
Video taken at 3:10 a.m. early Tuesday shows four or five people walking on the pedestrian walkway of the bridge.
Around 3:30 a.m., the light that illuminates the flag on the Brooklyn tower flickers, then goes out; at 3:42 a.m., the same thing happens on the Manhattan tower, police said. The NYPD said it appears large aluminum pans were secured to the light with zip ties.
The white flags raised security issues at an iconic landmark that is a critical piece of infrastructure used by tens of thousands of motorists and pedestrians a day.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams issued a statement saying Brooklyn would “not surrender our safety.” He is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
“If flying a white flag atop the Brooklyn Bridge is someone's idea of a joke, I'm not laughing," Adams said in a statement. "The public safety of our city is of paramount importance, particularly our landmarks and bridges that are already known to be high-risk targets.”
Miller said people do access the location, from construction workers to contractors.
Infrastructure that reaches such dizzying heights have attracted amateur daredevils. Four men from New York parachuted off One World Trade Center in September and an artist, Judith Supine, scaled the Queensboro Bridge to hang an art piece. In 2004, protesters during the Republican National Convention stole a flag on top of the Brooklyn Bridge.