White flags in a city that never surrenders

White flags on the Brooklyn Bridge on July White flags on the Brooklyn Bridge on July 22, 2014. Photo Credit: DNAinfo/Janet Upadhye

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While Mayor Bill de Blasio was in Rome this week -- trying to persuade Pope Francis to bring his message of income equality to New York -- all hell broke loose when someone planted white flags atop the twin pillars of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Tuesday was like an urban Rorschach test.

Some supposed the flags represented the final twilight victory of gentrification over Williamsburg hipster life -- as evidenced by the opening Monday of a new Starbucks at Ainslie Street and Union Avenue.

Some interpreted the flags more broadly -- as a sign that the sun had begun to set on Brooklyn's edgy urban frontier from Greenpoint to Crown Heights and beyond.

The more optimistic among us thought someone was probably shooting a movie on the bridge and just forgot to remove all the props.

The less optimistic worried aloud about a distressing lapse in security. The NYPD watches the bridge 24/7 -- yet the cops saw nothing until they ran the security tapes.

The NYPD emphasizes that investigators saw no hint of a terrorist plot as the flags -- whitewashed Old Glories -- were planted. In fact the whole thing could have been someone's art project, said NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence John Miller.

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We'd like to regard the flags as a plea for a momentary truce in the great urban shoutathon -- rich against poor, poor against rich, gentrifiers against hipsters, Brooklyn brownstoners against Manhattan swells.

And what better person to counsel us through our agita than Francis -- dressed in papal white -- who has plenty to say about fairness and justice for all?

A papal visit might give us a day or two to hit our inner mute buttons and ponder our responsibilities to each other as we try to coexist in this town more peacefully -- in contrast to what could happen if 35,000 Democrats opt to hold their 2016 convention in Brooklyn.

And what if New Yorkers aren't calmed by a papal trip? Well, a visit from Pope Francis might throw a nice little jump into the local economy. We wouldn't complain.

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