NEW YORK—Early Tuesday morning construction workers on the Brooklyn Bridge noticed an oddity. There were two white flags flying atop the bridge’s towers, where American flags have flown for years.
The workers notified police and the flags were replaced with a new set of American flags, but senior police officials were still stumped as to the motive for the stunt, and how exactly the people involved pulled it off.
What is known is that at 3:30 a.m. the light that illuminates the flag atop one of the towers went off. Thirteen minutes later, the light on the other tower also went dark. Responding officers who climbed to the top of the towers found large aluminum pans and zip ties were use to cover up the light. The pans were sized just right, indicating that the people involved had scoped out the scene in advance.
Four of five people who were crossing the bridge around 3:10 a.m. are being considered as suspects, according to Jonathan Miller, deputy commissioner for intelligence at the NYPD.
What is also known is that the white flags strung atop the towers were most likely commercially available American flags that were bleached white as part of a statement or an obscure art project.
Investigators found the gates leading to the top of the towers intact, suggesting that the perpetrators performed a dangerous climbing maneuver, or that they may have had the means to access the bridge because they were part of construction crews and other people regularly involved in the maintenance.
The flags fly from above the pillars year-round and are replaced by transportation workers when they become frayed about every two months, police said.
More than 120,000 vehicles, 4,000 pedestrians and 3,100 bicyclists cross the Brooklyn Bridge every day, said the city’s Department of Transportation, which maintains it.
Two police cars sit at either end of the bridge, which stretches the East River connecting lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, and are fed real-time security camera footage trained on areas affecting the structural integrity of the bridge, but those cameras didn’t capture the flag bandits.
Tourist Johan Lund, from Stockholm, Sweden, crossed the bridge Tuesday and did a double take when he noticed the white flags flapping in the wind.
“Wasn’t there an American flag there yesterday?” he said to himself.
In another high-level stunt at the One World Trade Center, a construction worker was involved in helping three skydivers gain access to the tower in September.
Police said there is currently no link established between the incident and either terrorism or politics.
“Needless to say, no matter what the motive was, that is a matter of concern,” Police Commissioner Bratton said at the police headquarters in Lower Manhattan on Tuesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.