Love-lock fad leapfrogs to Manhattan, W’burg bridges

Making their mark: Mark and Flora bucked the Brooklyn-Bridge-centric trend and left a memorial of their undying love on the Manhattan Bridge in March.
Community Newspaper Group / Hannah Frishberg

Spread love, it’s the Brooklyn Bridge way.

The Brooklyn Bridge is still the global destination for lovebirds to leave so-called “love locks” as a memento of their visit, but a handful of lost, adventurous, or otherwise ahead-of-the-curve romantics have brought the custom to the utilitarian Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. The Department of Transportation has declared war on the fasteners lining the more iconic of the two spans, lopping 4,000 of them off the structures along the footpath last month and claiming that they posed a hazard to drivers below, but people out strolling on the Manhattan Bridge in recent weeks said the practice is all in good fun.

“It’s not hurting anyone, so let them do it,” said Steve Warren, of Bedford-Stuyvesant who was photographing his adult son riding a bike on the bridge. “It’s just like graffiti. It’s art.”

A tourist out for a stroll on the less-inviting span, where B and Q trains run noisily alongside the chain-link-wrapped walkway, concurred.

“I think it’s awesome. It looks like art when there’s a lot of them,” said Flo Hausler of Zurich, noting that he has seen the metal mementos in Switzerland, too. “It’s like street art.”

A tourism expert said the impulse driving the lock craze is as old as time.

“At the heart of this, and similar gestures, is our human desire to be remembered, to leave our mark someplace to say, ‘I’ve been here,’ ” said Ann Carden, a professor of public relations at the State University of New York at Fredonia, whose research focuses on heritage tourism. “It’s the same reason we carve initials in trees or fresh cement — it’s a sense of permanency.”

To be sure, the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridge locks have not reached the epidemic proportions they have on the neighboring bridge — only 10 hung from each bridge during recent visits — apparently owing to the Brooklyn Bridge’s superlative status as a tourist attraction.

The locks are also cropping up in the shadows of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges on the railings at Fulton Ferry Landing.

A glut of love locks recently caused the foot–bridge in Paris that is often credited with popularizing the still–spreading custom, the Pont des Arts, to be evacuated after a section of railing collapsed under their weight.

That does not seem to be a danger yet on the upriver spans, and Warren’s son said roads honchos shouldn’t lose sleep over it.

“The city’s always wasting time and our money on things that don’t need to be changed,” Varian Gatewood said.

The Department of Transportation did not respond to a request for comment about the growth of the phenomenon, but a previous statement makes it clear that the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridge locks could find themselves in the crosshairs.

“As part of DOT’s regular bridge cleaning and maintenance operations, crews inspect bridges across the city and will remove debris or other items left there,” a spokeswoman said last month.

Warren has an idea he thinks could make everyone happy.

“Just dedicate a piece of the bridge where people are allowed to do it,” he said.

— with Hannah Frishberg

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at mperlman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Freedom of expression: Walker Demetrius Perry has no problem with the accessorization slowly taking hold on the Manhattan Bridge walkway. “It’s your right, what’s wrong with it?” he asked, rhetorically. “It’s a way of expressing your feelings.”
Photo by Hannah Frishberg

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