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NYC Girds And Preens For Bash

New York City is getting ready for millennium celebrations with a dazzling New Year's ball and a command center of emergency personnel, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod.

In a building across from the World Trade Center towers, the city has created a makeshift "Y2K war room." At this emergency operation headquarters, officials will monitor for potential problems around the clock.

Representatives of just about every city agency as well as a number of state agencies will work in the bullet-proof, bomb resistant fortress. The 50,000-square foot room has its own air and water supplies, ready for the emergencies that can be thrown its way.

The officials will be hooked into a network of command centers around the world including Tokyo; Sydney, Australia; Aukland, New Zealand; Los Angeles, Calif. and Washington, D.C. The command center has been online since February. It has been activated and tested for readiness at least four times - from blackouts, heat waves and Hurricane Floyd.

While some brace for disaster, others are preparing for what they hope will be a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle. Most of the two million revelers expected to flock to Times Square on Friday night will be tourists.

At the stroke of midnight Friday, a giant ball made of Waterford crystal will drop, guided by its steel support cables, before revelers in Times Square.

The ball was painstakingly created using 504 crystal triangles bolted to 168 translucent lexan panels, which are attached to the aluminum frame of the ball. Hundreds of halogen lights, colored light bulbs and mirrors on the ball's exterior will create bursts of reflecting light.

Jeffrey Strauss of Countdown Entertainment has helped oversee the creation of the 1,070 pound translucent sphere, which took three years to build.

After all that, Strauss says, he believes the ball's manufacturers will be taking it easy on New Year's Day.

"I think we're going to be sleeping," he says.

The ball is not all that will descend at midnight.

Treb Heining, a Confetti Master, is ready to dump five tons of paper on Times Square. The confetti will be launched from cannons atop 13 buildings surrounding the area. Radio signals will be used to cue the confetti crew.

But it's not just paper, Heining says. Different pieces of paper will symbolize cultures around the world.

"When Australia has their New Year's, we'll have these boomerang-type things. As we work our way into South America, we have different colored butterflies," he explains.

Mayor Rudolph Guiliani and the Taxi and Limousine Commission have issued a warning to cabdrivers thinking of taking advantage of partygoers: Treat customers right, and don't hike cab fares.

Any cabbie caught fleecing a tipsy passenger leaving Times Square faces the loss of his or her license, or a fat fine.

Most of midtown Manhattan will be off-limits to private cars, since emergency vehicles -- police, fire and ambulance-- will be stationed at key areas around the Times Square area, and even up to Central Park and down to Penn Station.

Those planning to be in the area have been urged to take trains or buses and leave their cars at home.