A 54-year-old man who had been fired from his county job in 2008 spent more than three hours hanging from the Tappan Zee bridge on a rope ladder before he crashed into the water and was pulled into a police boat Monday.
Authorities told NBC New York the protester had picketed officials in upstate Rockland County for years. Rockland County officials identified the man as Michael A. Davitt.
Rockland County Sheriff James Kralik said he sent a deputy to provide security during meetings after Davitt sent legislators letters "which some people considered threatening."
"We decided to keep an eye on him to make sure he didn't step over the line, and he never did,'' Kralik said. "Today he not only stepped over the line, he jumped over it.''
Davitt, who was wearing an American flag bandanna, was mid-span on the bridge, a major crossing north of New York City that connects suburban Westchester and Rockland counties. He was hanging from a harness attached to a rope ladder about halfway between the Hudson River and the bridge roadway.
His sign accused Rockland County officials of a "cover-up" and "retaliation."
As several boats positioned beneath Davit just before 2 p.m., he fell into the water. He was then pulled into a boat.
Rockland County spokesman Ron Levine said he was unsure of the man's complaints. He said the man had applied for disability payments and had been approved.
"This is bizarre," Levine said. "This is a very strange way of making a point."
Traffic had been backed up for miles, and onlookers gathered on the riverbank.
NBC New York and The Associated Press contributed to this report.