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German Artists Claim Responsibility for Swapping Brooklyn Bridge Flags

By Ben Fractenberg | August 12, 2014 4:38pm
 Two white flags appeared atop the Brooklyn Bridge July 22, 2014.
White Flags on Brooklyn Bridge
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MANHATTAN — A pair of German artists claimed responsibility Tuesday for hoisting white flags atop the Brooklyn Bridge last month.

Mischa Leinkauf and Matthias Wermke sent photographic and video evidence to The New York Times, telling the paper that they intended to celebrate “the beauty of public space” by placing the flags on the anniversary of the death of the bridge’s German-born engineer, John Roebling, who passed away on July 22, 1869.

"In the night from July 21st to July 22nd Wermke/Leinkauf hoisted two hand-sewn white American flags on the towers of Brooklyn Bridge," the artists said in a statement. "They were careful to treat the bridge and the flags with respect and followed the U.S. Flag Code. The return of the original flags is in progress."

Video provided to The Times shows a large white flag blowing in the wind from what appears to be the top of the bridge. Manhattan's Verizon Building is visible in the background.

The artists website shows pictures from a 2007 installation in which they placed a “bundle of balloons” on the steel cables of both the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges.

Other works shows them having scaled other building and structures throughout the world.

The stunt highlighted security lapses at one of the city’s most popular tourist destination.

Investigators chased a number of leads, including workers with access to the bridge and a group of teens who were captured by video walking across the bridge around the time the flags were swapped.

Video surveillance of the bridge on the night of the incident show lights illuminating the flag on the Brooklyn side of the bridge went out a little after 3:30 a.m. on July 22.

Then, at about 3:42 a.m., the light on the Manhattan-side flag went out.

Police found aluminum baking pans that had been placed over the spotlights, blocking both beams.

“We saw the bridge, which was designed by a German, trained in Berlin, who came to America because it was the place to fulfill his dreams, as the most beautiful expression of a great public space,” Leinkauf told The Times. “That beauty was what we were trying to capture.”

NYPD spokesman Stephen Davis said police are aware of the artists' statements about the flags.

"The investigation is continuing," he said.