Officers with NYPD’s Emergency Service Unit (ESU) climbed the cables of the Brooklyn Bridge shortly before noon on Tuesday to take down two enormous white flags that someone hung from the flagpoles atop the stone towers of the bridge.
The two 12 by 18-foot American flags which normally wave atop the iconic archways appear to be missing, raising concerns about the glaring breach in bridge security.
An NYPD spokesperson told the Brooklyn Eagle that the incident was being investigated by the Counterterrorism Unit.
Police said they did not have immediate information about when or how the flags were planted atop the bridge. “We don’t know anything,” one officer told the Brooklyn Eagle. Police Commissioner Bratton planned a press conference for later in the day at 1 Police Plaza.
The ESU team inched up the main cables as helicopters flew overhead and Marine Units patrolled the water under the bridge. The right lane of the Brooklyn-bound side of the bridge was lined with emergency units.
Once atop the towers, officers hoisted down the flags, folded and packed them up, then made the perilous climb down.
“If flying a white flag atop the Brooklyn Bridge is someone’s idea of a joke, I’m not laughing,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. The BP was set to announce a reward, which he will personally fund, for information leading to the arrest of suspects connected with the incident.
The operation was also no laughing matter to the personnel involved in the operation.
“It was probably something political,” said Nick Krevatas, a bridge painter whose was buckling into his harness in preparation for climbing back up — with his partner Caesar Vasmino — to replace the American flags. “You want to express your opinion, express yourself on social media,” he said.
“Someone will probably take responsibility, eventually,” he added.
Krevatas said a supply of the huge flags were kept on hand as backups, but replacing them on Tuesday would be a little tricky because “they took the ropes down. We have to rig it up, like a pulley.”
Krevatas had a cigar clamped firmly between his teeth. “I always have one when I climb,” he said.
An ESU officer told the Eagle that members of the unit were used to perilous climbs, as they are the team that is sent in to rescue bridge jumpers and perform other hazardous tasks.
“This is what we do,” he said. “Don’t do this if you’re afraid of heights,” he added.
Twitter and other social media went wild on Tuesday as questions about the flags went unanswered.
“Whoever put the white flag on the Brooklyn Bridge should be deported immediately…no hearings, no appeals,” said one by Craig.
“Mikhail Prohorov already waving the white flag on this season, I see,” cracked Alex.
More than 120,000 vehicles, 4,000 pedestrians and 3,100 bicyclists cross the Brooklyn Bridge every day, according to the Department of Transportation, according to AP.
This story will be updated.