We’ll burn that bridge when we get to it

A few weeks ago, our great city became smitten with an idea. The idea did not correspond to reality in any meaningful way, but it was good enough that it didn’t matter. The much-maligned Old Kosciuszko Bridge, a structure from a forgotten time, suspended over a forgotten place, would be the subject of a magnificent grand finale. An explosive Broadway performance o’er the Newtown Creek. And if you wanted to experience it, the only thing you had to do was show up. Seductive isn’t strong enough a word for this kind of happenstance. If you close your eyes, you’re drawn to imagine a crowd of New Yorkers, healing our divisions with the medicine of superlative collective experience. Its hard in that expectation of catharsis to realize that you are being misled.

Accordingly the event turned out to be fake. When cooler heads did finally prevail, it became apparent that not only was the Kosciuszko Bridge not scheduled for demolition July 11, but that it wasn’t scheduled at all. Furthermore, when the demolition does occur, no spectacular explosions are anticipated — instead, members will be led to collapse in a controlled manner. So what happened here?

Well I thought of a few possibilities. Let’s explore them in no particular order.

Bored Teenager Theory

Alex Smith doesn’t like schoolwork, homework, her part time job, her parents, or her friends. However, Alex does like tricking people and making fun of them when they are tricked. As a result, Alex did some research into old bridges in New York City and decided to make a Facebook event about an immanent and spectacular demolition. 40,000 people were fooled and Alex couldn’t stop giggling until EMTs injected her with a sedative.

Economic Development Theory

The Queens “Business Improvement District” or “Chamber of Commerce” or “Committee for Squeezing Paychecks out of People” hatched a brilliant plan to boost the commercial output of a small section of their borough for a single day. Thousands of people would show up expecting a spectacle and in their disappointment realize just how much they wanted a sandwich, samosa, used car, etc. The profits would be tremendous. Not to mention, a bunch of people would realize that Queens existed and might intentionally spend time there in the future. This would allow property values to rise, which would in turn increase tax income, which would then pay for the bridge to be demolished. Finally. God that thing is an eyesore.

Socially-Aware Fire Department Theory

Chae Woo had a problem. It was his first day as West Queens Fire Chief, and on his desk was a disaster waiting to happen.

“You mean that 40 thousand people are going to come to watch that bridge get blown up? Where are they going to stand?”
“I… I don’t know. There are a few warehouses down there, I guess they could stand on top of them?”
“40 thousand people are coming to visit a square inch, and your solution is to ask them to stand on a private building? Look, Chae, I know this is your first day, but you’re going to have to learn how things are done around here.”
“How are things done around here?”
“You put out an article. Some people see it, some people don’t. Turnout becomes manageable.”
“Huh. Ok.”

If this is in fact what happened, and I wake up tomorrow morning to find the Kosciuszko Bridge eliminated, I will be sending a short handwritten letter to Chae Woo.

“You win this one. But next time you won’t get away so easy.”

Job Interview Theory

“Why do you think I should give you the position of Social Media Manager at Evil Propaganda Corporation?”
“Remember that bridge that everyone thought was going to blow up?”
“You can’t be serious…”

It is one of the horrors of the 21st Century that all of the above really could be true. A single misanthrope can gather tens of thousands of people in an arbitrary location (I can’t even bring myself to comprehend the national security implications of this). A commercial group can advertise its wares in a decidedly non-traditional way. A fire department can attempt to deflect certain disaster. A person can demonstrate their prowess at attracting attention in a world where that has become a skill in its own right. Welcome to social media.

I can’t help but think the boy in “The Boy who Cried Wolf” would be considered the hero of the story today.

“But wait. Didn’t he lie to everyone, lose the trust of his peers, then doom his village?”
“Oh yes, but think of all the likes and shares he got! That boy has a career ahead of him.”

So if you want any recommendations for what to do this evening, and you happen to be in a crowd of people in West Maspeth staring at a perfectly intact bridge, I would suggest making your way to the 7–11 at 43 Street and Queens Boulevard and getting yourself a free Slurpee before crowding onto the 7 train and making your way towards the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, which is due to be demolished at midnight as part of the G20 Summit festivities.