DUMBO — Tourists and graffiti artists have turned the Brooklyn Bridge into an illegal canvas, scrawling motivational messages, valentines to the city and not-so-diplomatic doodles on it.
Aside from stopping to snap photos of the breathtaking views, pedestrians walking the treasured span's promenade have taken to drawing on its steel beams, cable wires and stone towers, leaving marks that only paint jobs and power scrubs can erase.
On two visits in the past week, a DNAinfo New York reporter observed large swaths of the promenade covered in graffiti.
The markings are mostly tiny notes — written in English, Chinese, Spanish and other languages — memorializing the date a tourist crossed the bridge. Many appear to have been written in the spring and in June.
The messages run the gamut from adages about seizing the day to shout-outs to a tourist's homeland. One French visitor even drew a picture of the Eiffel Tower.
Lovebirds are also using the city landmark to scrawl a sweetheart's initials and sappy poetry. In one public display of affection, a couple defaced a plaque on a bridge tower by writing their names enclosed in a heart.
New York is frequently the inspiration for vandalism. One pedestrian inked "I heart Manhattan" on a steel beam and drew an elaborate picture of the harbor, including the Statue of Liberty, One World Trade Center and a helicopter.
A few of the doodles cross the line of good taste. A picture drawn on a steel beam shows a man's private parts. In another section of the beam, a visitor crudely boasts of having urinated on the span.
On Monday a Dutch mother and daughter pulled out a pen and hunched over a brown steel beam. They wrote their names and the message "Was Nice" in English. They said they saw the other notes and decided to leave their own.
"We came from Holland. It's far away and we are not coming back for a long time," said the daughter, who only gave her first name, Esmee.
Albert Zylyftari, an artist who hawks his prints on the bridge, said tourists usually write the messages in the afternoon because the morning is too busy with commuters.
"It's a little ugly. It's not really nice," he said of the markings.
Brooklyn borough historian Ron Schweiger, who has given tours of the span, said he was surprised to hear of the graffiti. He hasn't walked across the bridge in two years, but he hardly ever noticed tagging back then.
"That's terrible to do that," he said. "To do it on the plaques, that's out and out vandalism."
Vandalizing the bridge is illegal, but Schweiger said he didn't know how the city could curb the practice.
"I don't know if it's preventable, even if you have a camera on the walkway," he said. "Fortunately, it's not done by thousands and thousands of people."
When asked about the graffiti, the city Department of Transportation, which operates the Brooklyn Bridge, told DNAinfo that it would inspect the bridge. DOT spokesman Nicholas Mosquera added that its work crews routinely survey the crossing for vandalism.
"As part of the ongoing Brooklyn Bridge rehabilitation and DOT’s regular bridge cleaning and maintenance operations across the city, crews inspect the bridge and remove graffiti or items left on the promenade," he said.