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Countdown To 2021: Organizers Test New Year's Eve Ball Drop In Times Square; NYPD Ready Regardless Of No Crowds

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Times Square is getting ready for the big ball drop to ring in the new year. The celebration will be unlike any other, and closed to the public.

The NYPD is saying New Yorkers should stay home Thursday night, CBS2's Dave Carlin reported.

Hundreds of thousands of people usually fill Times Square for New Year's Eve, but this year, the ball drop dress rehearsal had more attendance than the real thing will.

MORE: New Year's Eve Confetti Test Held Tuesday In Times Square; NYPD Announces Street Closures

Wednesday, as crews set up the performance stages, tourists and New Yorkers came to get one last look at the crystal ball. By the time it drops Thursday night, the area will be closed to the public.

"It's gonna be such a different thing from being a madhouse and crazy," said Michael Zorek, of the Upper West Side.

"Disappointed, but not surprised," said Nadia Rodriguez, of Kansas.

"Just being here is a good experience in general, just being in New York City on New Year's," said Ike Anaghara, of Texas.

"We'll enjoy it at home, and we'll just watch it on TV," said Svetlana Limburger, of Connecticut.

Charged with keeping New York City safe at one of the highest-profile events on the planet are NYPD officers. But CBS2 has learned there will be 80% fewer officers than before -- uniformed and undercover -- with equipment obvious and stealthy, including license plate readers.

Watch: NYPD Press Conference On New Year's Eve Preparations --

The department's challenging jobs include keeping out anyone who might do the city violent harm, and keeping out COVID-19.

"Although there will be many less men and women in blue working in Times Square, the NYPD will still have assets similar to what you have seen in the past. There is going to be officers posted in Times Square and in our subways. We're going to have our heavy weapons teams and counter terrorism overlay," Chief of Department Terence Monahan said.

"Better to keep the distance now and then maybe next year and maybe next year will be able to celebrate all together again," said Sabrina Rivera of Midtown.

Rivera recently moved to New York City from Florida. She's was showing her mom and siblings around and their stroll on Wednesday was their only planned taste of Time Square on their agenda.

"I wouldn't try to come here New Year's Eve, just for everyone's safety," Rivera said.

Watch Dave Carlin's report --

Carlin spoke to hotel managers, who said they are not packed like in years' past. He learned there are five hotels in the zone, but guests will be told to stay inside.

The only spectators who will be allowed are about 40 local front line workers, including Paul Nebb, an EMT from Monmouth County, New Jersey.

"I'm really happy to be here as one of the select few who get to kick 2020 out the door," Nebb told CBS2's Ali Bauman. "I've never come to Times Square for New Year's Eve before. It's always been cold and crowded, and here, this is my opportunity."

Some essential workers will also get that access, because they may need coffee or a snack.

MORETimes Square Vendors Concerned They'll Take Big Hit On 2021 Merchandise; App Available To Watch Celebration Virtually

Said El Wafi of Mia's Bakery on Seventh Avenue at 48th Street wondered if he will get at least some business.

"I'll still be able to come in at 9 a.m. and wait it out and around 12 or 1 o'clock like they traditionally do, shut down the streets, and if I see that I can't have guests in here or they're not allowed to come by, then I'll just close down," El Wafi said.

He said at the moment it's disappointingly slow inside his business, even though there was activity with an afternoon of ball drop rehearsals, a preview of what will be seen by most people at home, on TV and online.

One newsstand worker said it's a big blow.

"Sad. What can you do? We try, you know. It's not like last year or before, you know. It's hard now," Asif Fatiwala said.

Normally, restaurants like Olive Garden would be selling $600-$700 tickets for a table for people who want to watch the ball drop through the window, but this year, they can only do takeout.

Access to the area will become highly restricted at 12 a.m. Thursday.

"We're gonna have teams working up and down those blocks. Anyone that starts to gather, they're gonna be told to move along. We will not allow people to stand on the street corner and stare up," Monahan said.

Street Closures Starting At Midnight On Dec. 31

· Area bounded by West 45th Street, on the South

· West 49th Street on the North

· 6th Avenue, on the East

· 8th Avenue on the West

Street Closures Starting At 3 P.M. On Dec. 31

· Area bounded by West 41st Street, on the South

· West 49th Street on the North

· 6th Avenue, on the East

· 8th Avenue on the West

CBS2's Dave Carlin and Ali Bauman contributed to this report


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