Time was, the
Brooklyn Bridge was so powerful a symbol that protesters would only march
across it to complain about Really Big Things: police brutality, civil
rights, abortion rights, war.
But in the past two weeks, the bridge’s pedestrian walkway has been
commandeered so many times — by a candidate for an assembly seat;
by participants in an Easter Passion play; by homeowners on Duffield Street
who are upset that their homes may get torn down; and, most recently,
by supporters of transit union boss Roger Toussaint, who walked him to
the Tombs to surrender for his 10-day jail sentence — that some of
us at The Brooklyn Papers wondered if there was a reason beyond mere symbolism.
Perhaps, we surmised, walking across the bridge is actually faster than
taking the train (an irony, considering Toussaint’s job). So in the
spirit of investigation — and with a nod to the great tabloid tradition
of having a reporter on foot “race” a traffic-clogged crosstown
bus — we conducted the first-ever competition pitting the Brooklyn
Bridge footpath against the subway.
Hypercaffeinated editor (and tabloid veteran) Gersh Kuntzman vs. young
(and, frankly, somewhat dubious) reporter Dana Rubinstein, tired from
a day at the office.
Participants started at the DUMBO offices of The Brooklyn Papers. Kuntzman
took the footpath to the City Hall police booth on Park Row while Rubinstein
took the A/C train from High Street to Chambers and walked the rest of
6:10 pm: Both participants arrive at the footpath, where Kuntzman climbed
the stairs and Rubinstein headed for the subway one block away. Kuntzman
walked at a leisurely stroll, observing the traffic backed up on both
sides of the bridge (thanks to the omnipresent — but unmanned —
police cars parked in the fast lane that drive everyone crazy). The view
of the harbor and up the East River was fantastic.
6:12 pm: Rubinstein arrives at to the A/C station.
6:16 pm: Kuntzman reached the midway point of the bridge and took a moment
to appreciate the tourists walking by dressed in their summer clothes.
Mick Jagger lives.
6:19: Kuntzman sees two friends coming towards him on bicycles. He waves
hi, appreciates how nice it is to run into people you know in such an
often-impersonal city, and keeps on walking.
6:20: Rubinstein’s A/C train arrives (yes, she waited eight minutes
during rush hour). She is forced to stand between a guy who could be the
“before” photo in a Dr. Zizmor ad and a woman doing Su Doku.
6:22: Kuntzman arrives at City Hall.
6:25: Rubinstein’s A/C train arrives at Chambers Street.
6:30: Rubinstein arrives at City Hall. Kuntzman checks his watch and gloats.
But he also tells his young charge that their mission has taught a valuable
lesson: Just because people are marching over the Brooklyn Bridge doesn’t
mean there’s any important symbolism involved. It may mean they simply
chose the fastest route.