Sidewalk carving chiseled illegally in 1986 by Japanese artist Ken Hiratsuka. (Spring Street between Crosby and Broadway)
The four or five intruders, possibly working in two teams, went completely unnoticed by cops in the four patrol cars assigned to the bridge and nimbly climbed hundreds of feet on narrow main suspension cables, police sources said.
They then got past locked gates and climbed ladders to get to the top of each of the 276-foot towers.
To stay undetected, they zip-tied aluminum lasagna pans over the floodlights aimed at the flags — blacking out the Brooklyn side at 3:29 a.m. and the Manhattan tower 13 minutes later, cops said.
“This may be somebody’s art project, or it may be somebody’s attempt at making a statement . . . We haven’t seen a credible claim of responsibility,” said NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence John Miller.
“For someone to compromise that gate by going around it and continue to the top of the tower, have the right size cover to put over the light, there’s some indication of some good deal of pre-operational planning, perhaps some indication that they have experience climbing in construction or in bridgework, or that they may have actually been up there before looking at the dimensions.”
A police officer finally spotted the 11-by-20-foot white flags — commonly a symbol for surrender — at around 5:30 a.m., as the sun came up, sources said.
Emergency Service cops clambered up the towers, pulled the banners down and folded them into tight triangles using traditional procedures at about 11 a.m.
Police are trying to figure out how the bridge, long a potential terror target, became so vulnerable.