New York City is deploying thousands of police officers to Times Square for the first New Year’s Eve since an attempted terrorist bombing in May.
Hundreds of thousands of revelers descend on Broadway and Seventh Avenue to celebrate the year’s end and watch a lighted ball drop from a flagpole atop One Times Square. The tradition began in 1904 and attracts as many as 1 million people, according to the Times Square Alliance, a business-residents group.
The police department will deploy a “counterterrorism overlay” in Times Square, including thousands of uniformed and undercover officers, hand-held and vehicle-mounted radiation detectors, helicopters and elevated observation towers, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said.
“We always do things a little bit differently,” Kelly said yesterday at a press conference. “We don’t want to get stuck in a rut, so some of our deployments will change.”
There are no specific threats against the city, Kelly said. “I think it will be a safe and happy event,” he said.
The celebration will be the first since Pakistani immigrant Faisal Shahzad attempted to detonate a car bomb in Times Square on the evening of May 1. Shahzad pleaded guilty to the bombing attempt in June and was sentenced to life in prison.
Backpacks, large bags and alcohol will be prohibited in Times Square, and pocketbooks will be inspected as revelers enter fenced-in viewing zones, the Police Department said in a statement.
About 1,200 police recruits who graduated last week will be deployed in the area.
43rd to 59th
As more people arrive, new zones will be opened from 43rd Street as far north as 59th. Those who leave their areas before midnight won’t be allowed back, the police said.
“I, for one, am going to be there,” New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said yesterday. “At least one of my children is going to be there. And I expect to have a great time.” The mayor is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.
There is no parking on east-west streets from 33rd to 59th streets and from Sixth to Ninth avenues until 1 a.m. tomorrow. Parking on most north-south avenues in the area will be restricted, the police said.
Times Square will be closed to vehicles starting at 3 p.m., and people are being encouraged to take public transportation to the area. Some subway entrances near Times Square will be closed starting at about 7 p.m.
Southbound and northbound N, R and W trains will skip the 49th Street station from 7 p.m. until tomorrow at 12:15 a.m., and the No. 1 train will skip the 50th Street station in the same period.
The police department will monitor other events tonight as well, such as fireworks displays at the Statue of Liberty and Prospect Park in Brooklyn, a four-mile (6.4-kilometer) run in Central Park and almost three dozen dinner cruises on city waterways, Kelly said.
Milder weather may bring more visitors, said Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance. Most of the 20 inches of snow that fell on New York last weekend has been removed from the area, he said.
Today is forecast to be mostly sunny, with a high temperature near 43 degrees Fahrenheit (6 degrees Celsius) followed by a mostly clear night with a low of about 32, according to the National Weather Service.
“Generally the biggest indicator of how many people show up and also how early they show up is whether it’s bone-chilling cold or a little bit warmer,” Tompkins said. “It does look like relative to the season it’s going to be warmer. Usually that means the crowds fill up a little quicker and a little earlier.”
The fears of a terrorist attack are “no greater or less than in previous years,” he said.
“NYPD is the best law enforcement agency anywhere for dealing with huge events in a high-profile place,” he said.
Most of the 20 inches of snow that fell on New York last weekend has been removed from Times Square, he said.
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