A tourist from Lyon, France, named Steven Heng visited the Brooklyn Bridge on Tuesday not just to take in the celebrated peaked arches, the trellis of wire rope and the panoramic views. He also came to shop — before it was too late.
Tuesday was the last day for scores of souvenir vendors who have sprung up illegally along the footpath, turning the bridge into a 6,000-foot-long mall across the East River. New city rules designed to ease congestion on the bridge effective Wednesday will ban vending from this and all the city’s 789 bridges.
Back in France, Mr. Heng, 33, who works in a restaurant, had 20 friends expecting trinkets from his trip; he’d read about the vendor clear-out and hustled to the bridge. “We’re buying everything,” he said, clutching two ornaments featuring the Empire State Building in a wreath and a mini Statue of Liberty that he had nabbed, all for just $10. “This is so much cheaper than Times Square.”
On weekends, nearly 35,000 people a day may cross the footpath over the 141-year-old bridge connecting Lower Manhattan to Brooklyn Heights, according to the New York City Department of Transportation. Over the river, the wooden-planked pedestrian walkway is about 16 feet across, and since 2021, it is free of bicycle traffic.
But there are frequent bottlenecks; near the shoreline and around the stanchions, the walkway can be as narrow as five feet. Combine that constricted space with tourists loitering before an array of stuffed sloths with I ♥ NY embroidered on their chests, paintings of Marvel superheros recreating the 1932 “Lunch Atop a Skyscraper” photo and a bobblehead of the disgraced New York governor Andrew M. Cuomo, the walkway frequently comes to a complete standstill.
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