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The Brooklyn Bridge will close to traffic twice a day for months during El Chapo’s trial

Written by
Clayton Guse

One of the world's most prominent criminals is being held in New York City as he awaits trial. And during the course of his judicial proceedings, he'll be the cause of regular traffic disruptions on one of the world's most prominent historical landmarks.

The criminal is Joaquín Guzmán, the Mexican kingpin better known as El Chapo. The landmark is the Brooklyn Bridge. The paths of each are poised to cross in a terribly inconvenient fashion later this year in what is quickly becoming one of the strangest New York City crime stories in recent memory. 

El Chapo's trial is slated to begin on November 5 at the Federal District Court in Brooklyn. But unlike nearly every other detainee who is facing trial at that location, he's being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a high-security jail in lower Manhattan, rather than the federal jail in Brooklyn. This week, the New York Times pointed out that transporting the drug lord across the East River will force authorities to temporarily close traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge twice a day during the course of the trial.

The bridge has already seen some closures as a result of the situation, as El Chapo has been arraigned for hearings at the Brooklyn courthouse. The trial may carry on for up to four months, making the whole ordeal a giant headache for those who are trying to get across the 135-year-old landmark via car. The situation is unusual, but so are the circumstances under which the notorious figure was brought to New York.

El Chapo was extradited to the United States in 2017 to face charges relating to running the Sinaloa cartel, a drug and money trafficking organization that authorities have deemed responsible for numerous murders over the past three decades. Before he was arrested and eventually transported to New York, he escaped from Mexican prisons on two separate occasions in 2001 and 2015. His slippery nature led authorities to place him in the high-security jail in Manhattan rather than the Brooklyn location, thus leading to the impending traffic kerfuffles. 

The precise route that authorities will use to transport El Chapo between the boroughs has not been made public, but the Brooklyn Bridge is bookended by both the Metropolitan Correctional Center and Brooklyn's Federal District Court. A spokesperson from the New York City Department of Transportation said that the agency does not currently have a mitigation plan for the congestion the bridge closures may cause. Representatives from the New York Police Department were not immediately available for comment.

Still, if you're trying to catch a cab across the Brooklyn Bridge this winter, be wary of El Chapo. Others have been doing the same for 30 years.

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