NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Now it’s very serious – Mayor Bill de Blasio has vowed to make changes in security at all city-controlled East River crossings after the second breach at the Brooklyn Bridge in a period of just a month.
Meanwhile, the Russian tourist accused of climbing the bridge to take pictures with his with his cellphone faced a judge Monday.
Yaroslav Kolchin, 24, who was visiting the city from Moscow, is charged with reckless endangerment, criminal trespass and other charges.
As CBS 2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, Kolchin was dressed in a gray hoodie reading “Chicago” when he appeared for the hearing. He appeared to tear up at times during the hearing.
Kolchin’s attorney, Paul Liu, said his client wanted to “resolve this matter and go back home.” But the judge allowed no such thing, instead setting Kolchin’s bail at $5,000 and ordering him to surrender his passport.
Kolchin was arrested Sunday after he climbed a cable beam on the Brooklyn side of the bridge and reached the top of the tower, police said.
Kolchin was seen walking back and forth on the landing, taking photos with his iPhone, police said. They said once a police aviation unit was hovering at an altitude next to the tower, Kolchin began to descend safely down the same way he had climbed up.
Kolchin was met by police at the security gate, where he was taken into custody without further incident.
At the hearing Monday, Assistant District Attorney Laurie Cartwright had asked the judge to set bail at $25,000, arguing that Kolchin endangered the public, WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported. But defense attorney Liu insisted Kolchin was not a flight risk. The man’s tour group has since left the country without him, Cornell reported.
Kolchin is an apparent thrill seeker, CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang reported. Photos from a Facebook page under Kolchin’s name show him recently posing at the Grand Canyon and at the Willis Tower – formerly the Sears Tower – in Chicago.
Police won’t explain how Kolchin managed to climb the bridge initially unnoticed. According to a criminal complaint, Kolchin told police he did it for fun.
In the wake of the incident, Mayor de Blasio has ordered the NYPD to review security on all of the city’s bridges and make changes as soon as possible.
“We’re doing a full-scale review, and anyone who knows (NYPD) Commissioner (Bill) Bratton knows that when he does a full-scale review, it’s a very serious endeavor and changes will be made,” de Blasio said.
When asked Monday who should be held accountable for the latest security breach, Mayor de Blasio told reporters: “You can hold me accountable and Commissioner Bratton accountable.
“We are in the process of looking at the bridges in terms of all the different security elements we want to add to them going forward, and we’ll be doing that in short order,” de Blasio said, WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported.
But the problem for the NYPD was that this was the third security breach at a New York City bridge in just over a month.
On July 22, two American flags on the Brooklyn Bridge’s towers were replaced with whitewashed versions of Old Glory. Two German artists have claimed responsibility.
Last week, an activist group unfurled a Palestinian flag on the span of the Manhattan Bridge.
“It’s definitely cause for concern for the city as a whole — two breaches on the Brooklyn Bridge, three breaches overall,” said security expert Manny Gonzalez.
Gonzalez said the NYPD did not learn anything from the events of the past month, still being reactive instead of proactive. He said changes have to be made so that real terrorists don’t get the idea that security is soft.
“Obviously, terrorists worldwide are looking at this and saying: ‘Hey, here we go – yet another case. Simple people that are just going up there for fun to take pictures are breaching a maximum-security site. What could we do with all our resources and all our training?’” Gonzalez said.
The NYPD has already beefed up security at bridges with new cameras and more officers, but some New Yorkers say the city must do more.
“It’s a little disconcerting to know that that’s happened, under the scrutiny that the location’s been under,” said Steve Gleeman of the Upper West Side.
“You would think something like that would be monitored a little better,” said Vicky Mauro of SoHo.
“That means that they’re not taking care of watching the bridge correctly,” said Tracy Spruill.
“I just noticed the two cars, and I was like, ‘That doesn’t deter anything,’” said Staten Island resident Soloman Olaiya.
“You can’t watch every crazy guy who comes here wanting to do something stupid,” said Jeremy Rawlings.
As CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, many New Yorkers went further and said they think the NYPD has been dropping the ball.
“I figure, if they did it a second time, they could be doing it a third, or fourth,” said Vinia Nieves of Lower Manhattan. “They have to be more vigilant.”
“They were able to get away with it without being harmful or threatening, but what if they were?” said Queen Boyce of the Bronx. “And then we’d be on trouble again.”
After the flag-swap incident, Bratton said the NYPD focuses much of its security on parts of the bridge that are critical to structural integrity. Police admitted that since then, some of the security at the Brooklyn Bridge has been scaled back.
Now, City Hall sources told CBS 2 some of the reforms being considered by the NYPD in the wake of the latest incident include better signs, added foot patrols and scooters on the bridge, and improving the physical barriers to make climbing the cables harder.
There will also be more cameras and sensors.
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