Eyes on the Street: NYPD Does Its Part to Fuel Brooklyn Bridge Tensions


Embarrassed by two German artists who reached the top of the Brooklyn Bridge’s west tower this summer (or was it the All-Powerful Bike Lobby?), NYPD has adopted an ingenious solution: Put a motor vehicle on it!

A reader who wishes to remain anonymous sends these observations about the new NYPD security theater at NYC’s most crowded pinch point for pedestrians and cyclists:

There were three (count ’em) NYPD vehicles (Interceptors) parked on the promenade all day [Sunday]. In each one was a cop, sitting quietly. I was wondering why they weren’t outside of their vehicle helping manage the chaos of tourists and bikes trying to squeeze past them, and then it occured to me – the three vehicles, midspan and one on each approach, were in position to watch the cables leading up to the towers in case someone else tries that “white American Flag” art stunt.

According to someone I met on the bridge who is a frequent visitor there, those posts were there when the crazed Russian tourist climbed to the top, a couple of weeks after the art stunt, but apparently the cops didn’t notice him until he was up there for a while.

I can understand how the cops might have missed something like that, as all three that I passed were busy looking down at their smartphones.

Of course the NYPD found a way to make their positions as obnoxious as possible, bringing up their enclosed motor vehicles and parking them on the promenade, causing tourists to swell around them and create yet another crowding hazard for bicyclists.

On surface streets, the Interceptors are a step up from squad cars in terms of spatial efficiency. But on a narrow, crowded pathway for walking and biking, there’s really no place for them.

  • red_greenlight1

    A couple weeks ago I tapped on the window of one to let them know that a student film crew had taken up the whole pedestrian path and part of the bike lane. The officer mumbled something to the effect of he already knew. A couple dozen feet up the path a cyclist was on the ground. I don’t know what happened and he didn’t seem seriously hurt.

    I’ve resolved to tack another 5 minutes on to my commute and the Manhattan Bridge. Trust me even without the NYPD blocking the lane you’re better off on the Manhattan.

  • Jeff

    What about that little “stunt” somebody pulled at Atlantic and Flatbush the other day? You know, the little “stunt” that actually killed someone? Why can’t they post up three officers at that location to make sure THAT never happens again? Why are they reacting so aggressively to something that really wasn’t a threat to anyone, but systemic lawlessness and the resultant bloodshed doesn’t get any attention whatsoever?

  • In August, not long after the white flag stunt, I was on the Brooklyn Bridge with my kids. There were cops everywhere. There were also a few drink vendors by the tower on the Manhattan side, as is frequently the case on a hot summer day. But one of them was lighting a set of Tiki torches for his coconut milk display! Not that Tiki torches are a huge terrorist threat, but it did seem somewhat amazing to me that bringing large quantities of a flammable liquid onto the bridge and then lighting that liquid right next to a support tower wouldn’t cause the NYPD to bat an eye. Security theater indeed!

  • Mark Walker

    They view the bridge stunt as a challenge to their authority. Traffic violence is not a challenge to their authority because they identify with drivers, not with pedestrians or cyclists. It’s an “us vs. them” mentality. The challenge is to get cops to recategorize pedestrians and cyclists as “us,” not “them.” Perhaps it will someday happen as a generational shift. In the meantime, the carnage continues.

  • Eric McClure

    Meanwhile, a couple blocks away on Jay Street, it’s ‘Lord of the Flies’ for drivers…

  • Cold Shoaler

    This is just the epitome of NYPD laziness/incompetence. Why on earth do they even need golf carts? With so many people on the bridge they can’t be driven faster than jogging pace anyway. The NYPD throws a ton of personnel at a non-threat and they can’t even police on foot (or bike) on one of the busiest and most iconic motor-free urban spaces in the entire country. It makes them look like fools – ironic since this is a reaction to a couple of hipsters embarrassing them.

    I thought the city was implementing some enhanced physical barriers to prevent a repeat of ‘capture the flag’. I saw some survey crews sizing up the cables a couple months back. I sure hope the current police presence isn’t the permanent ‘solution’. They can’t seriously keep this charade going forever, can they?

  • M to the I

    Can I point out one of my favorite views of NYPD security theater…They put a bollard at a point in the path where it narrows due to the staircase on the Manhattan side. The bollard is placed off center effectively making 1/3 of the path unusable. I’m sure they have some regulation that the gap must not be more than a certain distance to protect from I don’t know what. I mean why would a terrorist have to drive a car up the ped/bike path they can just drive over the bridge. Not to mention the space isn’t big enough for a car or truck anyway. Why not just center the god damn thing? Its the same thing with the dumb bollards on both sides of the Manhattan bridge.

  • Michael Klatsky

    It won’t because they are drivers living in Rockland and Suffolk counties that drive into the city and park on the sidewalks near their precincts. Hopefully more affordable housing for the middle class and great public schools within the city will change that.

  • All Powerful Bike Lobby

    “I saw some survey crews sizing up the cables a couple months back.”

    That gives me an idea how I can sneak past the Po-Po with my next flag… Dress up as a surveyor!

    Signed… The All Powerful Bike Lobby

  • Seth Rosenblum

    It’s probably off center so that it’s at least 3 feet from the stair wall. That’s the regulation sidewalk width for allowing people in a wheelchair to pass. These bollards are terrible on the Manhattan and Wburg bridges though.

  • AnoNYC

    This is the perfect location for bicycle cops. Why would you drive a such a wide vehicle onto a busy multi-use path?

    Some geniuses running NYPD eh?

  • Julio

    The golf carts were there yesterday and today as well. Tonight when I biked the bridge, an NYPD motorcycle was zooming at me at around 20 mph down the bike lane. That was in addition to the three golf carts.

  • Greg

    They’ve been there continuously since the white flag incident months ago.

  • Rabi

    I might be remembering this wrong, but I think right after the flag stunt they were parking the Interceptors in the bike lane, forcing riders into the pedestrian lane.

    To echo everyone else, this is security theater at its most inane. Reactionary, ineffective, and just generally pointless.

  • stairbob

    By causing a response that creates overblown security theater like this, the terrorists have won, once again.

  • They also park their little cars on the Williamsburg bridge but they are out of the way and seems to increase safety at night.

  • Jimbo from Malibu

    The ultimate in passive/aggressive enforcement. I feel better knowing those cops are glued to their smartphones.

  • MatthewEH

    Would it be crazy to give each of these cops a nice foot scooter (a Xootr, say) and a folding chair? I’d imagine they’ll be able to take off in pursuit of a perp a lot more nimbly and maneuverably on a scooter than in an interceptor.

    Problem with making it a bike-patrol duty is you couldn’t reasonably expect the cop to stand straddling their bike for hours on end while watching the bridge; needing to take a seat is totally understandable. But then they’d have get up, straddle the bike, and get going; hopping on a scooter would be faster.

  • Interceptor III

    All of the actual policing that needs to be done on this bridge can and should be done by cctv and periodic foot (or bike) patrols from one side to the other. No cops – in golf carts or otherwise – need to be stationed on the bridge for hours on end. It’s complete BS, and proof that NYPD has more officers than are actually needed. It’s either make-work or punishment duty for the personnel sent out there.

  • Interceptor III

    Or literally asleep on the job. One I passed yesterday was sitting in his golf cart with his head back and his eyes closed.

  • Peter H

    While we’re on the subject, can we talk about the parks police in the Hudson River Park who drive their FULL SIZE SUV up the bike path and down the pedestrian areas regularly?!?!? Admittedly it’s a much bigger area to cover than a bridge, but it does make you wonder who the wizard is who tells them to drive their huge vehicle through the crowds.