My first sighting of a selfie stick in the wild was on the Brooklyn Bridge. Three European tourists gathered themselves together, with one tourist acting as a pivot point, angling the rod so that their three heads would be framed by one of the bridge’s distinctive pointed stone arches. In most ways, the Brooklyn Bridge is the best New York City icon on which to selfie with a stick. The Statue of Liberty is usually too far away; the spire of the Empire State Building, from the observation deck, too near. Central Park is very nice but, ultimately, grass is grass. The bridge has natural lighting, built-in framing, and instant recognition. Being yelled at by a biker as you infringe on her lane for a photo could be seen as a New York hazing ritual.
The Brooklyn Bridge belongs to all of us, as an icon, as infrastructure, as a backdrop for snapshots and proposals and commutes. Which is why it needs protection. Not from being torn down or allowed to rot, like less photogenic and accessible contemporaries, but protection from love—the obsessive kind of love that wants to glom on to its glamor and give little in return. Right now, a series of buildings and proposals are chipping away at the experience of the bridge, blocking sidelong glances down the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, and scrubbing from view the masts and cable stays that suggests an earlier New York. It’s time for the bridge to get a Special Scenic View district of its own, a two-way district that preserves sight lines both to and from its mighty span.