Brooklyn Heights

Bill that would penalize bridge climbers winds through Senate

Launched after infamous ‘white flag’ incident on the Brooklyn Bridge

March 29, 2016 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Police swarm the Brooklyn Bridge after German artists replaced the American flags atop the towers of the bridge in 2014. Photo by Mary Frost
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New York City bridge climbers may soon be faced with up to a year in the slammer, if a bill sponsored by state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Brooklyn Heights-Greenpoint-Lower Manhattan) moves to a full Senate vote.

The bill, which would increase penalties for trespassing on the city’s bridges and tunnels, edged forward on Monday after it was unanimously approved (16-0) by the Senate’s Codes Committee.

The Critical Infrastructure Safety Act would increase penalties for trespassing on infrastructure deemed to be vital to the city, such as the Brooklyn Bridge, from the current three-month maximum to a year. It would also increase the maximum fine from $500 to $1,000.

Squadron introduced the legislation following three separate incidents of tourists climbing the bridge in 2014.

In one, German artists replaced the American flags atop the towers of the bridge with bleached white flags, sending the city into a frenzy. Called the “stunt of the summer” and an “epic” art project after the artists stepped forward (and returned the American flags), the incident none-the-less raised serious questions about bridge security.

Last year, another trespassing incident took place on the RFK Triborough Bridge.

After each incursion, police personnel, air and water support and other costly resources were dedicated to the sites, and additional short- and long-term security measures were put in place.

“Trespassing stunts on bridges, tunnels, and other critical infrastructure raise security concerns, and waste emergency personnel resources,” Squadron said in a release on Monday. He urged a full Senate vote.

Following the bridge-climbing incidents, security has been stepped up on the Brooklyn Bridge. Photo by Mary Frost

Squadron is working in tandem with state Assemblymember Joseph Lentol, who introduced a companion bill in the Assembly, and in collaboration with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

“The NYPD and FDNY do not take these actions lightly, as it ties up critical resources that can be helping others with life threatening emergencies,” Lentol said in a statement.

“The law should clearly state that nobody has the right to interfere with our bridges, tunnels, and other secure facilities for any reason, and that we will prosecute to the full extent of the law anyone who attempts to undermine our security,” Adams added.

The bill would make a person guilty of criminal trespassing in the second degree “when he or she knowingly climbs upon any railing, cable, suspender rope, tower, or superstructure of any bridge, or otherwise trespasses on any portion of a bridge, tunnel, or any other critical infrastructure that is not intended for public use.” Currently this type of behavior is treated the same as any other type of trespassing, a Class B Misdemeanor. The bill would raise it to a Class A Misdemeanor.

The legislation complements a similar piece of federal legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer in 2014. In a statement, Schumer applauded the bill.

Photo by Mary Frost


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