June 21, 2003
Terrorists on the Brooklyn Bridge?
By PATRICK HEALY
The day after federal law enforcement officials announced a foiled terrorist plot to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge, Steve Curry laced up his tennis shoes, donned a green windbreaker and set out for his first walk over the bridge.
Mr. Curry, who has lived in New York for five years, marveled at the stone towers and the spider web of steel cables as he and a friend from out of town walked toward Brooklyn. Mr. Curry said threats of terrorism were the last thing on his mind. "It still remains a symbol of ingenuity and engineering might," he said.
Other New Yorkers strolling along the bridge yesterday seemed equally undeterred. Several said they made the walk regularly and did not intend to change their habits.
"It's an invaluable thing for me," said Thomas Duddy, who lives in Brooklyn. "It's such an ennobling experience to walk under the towers. It's a form of meditation for me. It's spiritual."
Federal officials said Thursday that Iyman Faris, a naturalized American citizen from Kashmir, pleaded guilty in May to charges that he had provided material support to terrorists. Officials said that Mr. Faris had planned to sever the suspension cables using blowtorches, but was discouraged by the bridge's structure and the level of security.
The bridge is vulnerable because it is the only one in New York whose main suspension cables all come together at each end of the bridge, said a senior law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The cables meet in two small rooms, 15 to 20 feet below the walkway, and if the cables in either room were severed, the bridge would collapse, the official said.
Last year the cable rooms were equipped with sensors and alarms, and police officers are able to respond to a tripped alarm in seconds and shut down traffic on the bridge, the official said. There are also security cameras and 24-hour foot patrols, and a police boat kept nearby.
Yesterday morning, two police cruisers, their lights flashing, were parked at the Manhattan entrance. But Susan Licht, a Brooklyn resident, said, "I'm more concerned about getting mugged." She added: "All this stuff is window dressing. If somebody really wants to do something, they'll do it."
Henry Taplitz said that when he was growing up in Brooklyn, it felt provincial and insular as it faced Manhattan, exotic and cosmopolitan. The bridge linked those worlds.
"There are many bridges going into Manhattan," Mr. Taplitz said. "This is the only significant one. You went to Manhattan, you took the Brooklyn Bridge. It's really one of the glories of the city."
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company