Test Drop Done, Police Stake Out Positions As Countdown To New Year's Begins
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) - Police officers Sunday night were staking out their positions for the New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square, and the massive, shimmering ball is ready to drop for the big event.
As CBS 2's Drew Levinson reported, the NYPD has assigned thousands of officers to monitor the festivities, and some will not be in plain sight. Plainclothes officers will blend into the crowd.
Meanwhile, the famous New Year's Eve ball atop One Times Square got its final test run Sunday on the 130-foot pole atop One Times Square. The ball is comprised of nearly 2,700 Waterford crystals and 32, 256 LED lights and weighs 12,000 pounds – nearly six tons.
Ed Crawford, chief executive officer of Philips Lighting Company, said the ball is the perfect device to test cutting edge technology.
"We've used the Times Square ball, really, as a laboratory to push the boundaries of what lighting can do in your home," Crawford said.
"Truly is the largest crystal ball in the world," Countdown Entertainment president Jeffrey Straus told 1010 WINS' Glenn Schuck. "New Year's Eve is a moment in time where we can all look back and sort of reflect on what's happened. We look forward to what's going to happen in the future and we celebrate today. And it's really a good moment to all come together and feel good."
"Here in New York City, you see people celebrating and watching a lighted time ball come down a pole," Straus told WCBS 880's Alex Silverman.
The ball drop is actually an old maritime tradition, Silverman reported. But it was adopted by New York City more than a century ago, after the fireworks they tried in Times Square burned the revelers below during the first Times Square New Year's celebration in 1903-1904 – in what was then still called Longacre Square.
"And that message where you see this sort of massive humanity celebrating together watching and counting down together, that's the most amazing feeling," Straus added.
Also above Times Square, the Happy New Year balloons were inflated. They will be handed out Monday night.
How many balloons pop before they make it out to Times Square?
"None of them pop," said Balloon Affairs owner Dan Magowan. "Well, a couple of them pop."
Magowan said to fill up 25,000 balloons, he starts out with 27,000.
Down below in Times Square, the stage was just about set Sunday night. Police have brought down the barricades, and now all that is needed are about a million revelers.
Catherine Nash of Washington, D.C., and Candace Hudgins of Chesapeake, Va., will be among the crowd.
"We're ready for it. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so we've to got to do it," Nash said.
"We get to tell people we were in the crowd in New York City on New Year's Eve," Hudgins said.
Frederique Funkin and Jim Fanderpanne came from Amsterdam. Now that they've seen how far the ball drops, they're having second thoughts.
"We thought it would be something major; that it would drop from the top all the way down, and now we are seeing it like this, and we have to stand out here in the cold for six hours waiting for it, we are maybe, are we still going to do that?" Funkin said, "We are going to try. We are going to try."
The ball will begin its 130-foot drop at 11:59 Monday night as it rings in the new year.
1010 WINS' Glenn Schuck reports
If you don't want to brave the crowds or won't be in town for the massive block party, Straus said anyone can experience New York's New Year's on their phone or tablet.
"If you're not here in Times Square, you can actually see it on the Times Square Ball app on your mobile device anywhere in the world and on our webcast, which you can see on TimesSquareNYC.org," he said.
The group tested its tons of confetti on Saturday with a test drop.
Each year, the New York Police Department assigns thousands of extra patrols to festivities - in ways seen and unseen - to control the crowd and watch for any signs of trouble. Hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world are expected to pack into the bow-tie stretch of streets in Midtown Manhattan to see the crystal ball drop and ring in 2013.
"We think it's the safest place in the world on New Year's Eve,'' Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told The Associated Press ahead of the holiday.
Security in Times Square has become an obsession for the NYPD in the post-9/11 world, especially since the botched attempted car bombing there in the summer of 2010. More recently, details emerged in another case in Florida saying that one suspect considered Times Square as a potential target.
"Times Square is an iconic location that draws a significant number of people every day,'' Kelly said. "New Year's Eve is the apex of that, so we have to plan accordingly.''
Kelly stressed that there are no specific terror threats related to a celebration televised across the globe. But believing that the so-called "Crossroads of the World'' is always in the crosshairs of would-be terrorists, the nation's largest police department has turned securing the event into a science.
Hotels are a particular concern. The department has worked closely with managers, urging them to guard against anyone who might seek to check into a guest room and use it to launch a sniper or other type of attack.
"We ask them to monitor people coming into the hotels very closely,'' Kelly said.
In terms of crowd control, police noticed last year that revelers starting flocking to Times Square earlier in the day to hear rehearsals of performers scheduled for various telecasts.
"At one o'clock in the afternoon, there was a significant crowd,'' Kelly said."It was really packed with people.''
So this year, the department will adjust by posting more officers on the streets before nightfall, the commissioner said.
Along with the army of additional uniformed officers, police will use barriers to prevent overcrowding and for checkpoints to inspect vehicles, enforce a ban on alcohol and check handbags. Visitors will see bomb-sniffing dogs and heavily armed counter-terrorism teams. Rooftop patrols and NYPD helicopters will keep an eye on the crowd as well.
Other plainclothes officers are assigned to blend into the crowd. Many officers will be wearing palm-size radiation detectors designed to give off a signal if they detect evidence of a dirty bomb, an explosive intended to spread panic by creating a radioactive cloud.
The bomb squad and another unit specializing in chemical and biological threats will sweep hotels, theaters, construction sites and parking garages. They also will patrol the sprawling Times Square subway station.
The NYPD also will rely on a network of thousands of closed-circuit security cameras carpeting the roughly 1.7 square miles south of Canal Street, the subway system and parts of Midtown Manhattan.
Another annual practice: Sealing manhole covers and removing mailboxes to prevent anyone from using them to conceal an explosive or other device.
Where will you be celebrating the new year? Let us know in the comments section below...
(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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