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Security Tight As NYC Welcomes Pope Francis

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Pope Francis arrived in New York City Thursday and the city is ready.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton did a security sweep himself of St. Patrick's Cathedral ahead of the pope's arrival, even inspecting the altar.

Francis' plane landed at Kennedy Airport just after 5 p.m., and his helicopter landed in Manhattan just around 6 p.m.

"Today is really finishing touches," Bratton told CBS2's Andrea Grymes earlier Thursday. "He arrives late this afternoon. It begins today, really, the months of planning and you'll see that planning in full evidence, full bloom if you may."

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Homeland Security has a command center set up across from the cathedral, where the pope will hold a prayer service Thursday evening.

Cabs, buses and cars are dealing with street shutdowns surrounding the cathedral.

Pope Francis NYC Security
A security fence has been erected around St. Patrick Cathedral in preparation of Pope Francis' visit. (Credit: Kelly Waldron/WCBS 880)

"It has to be done," one cab driver told WCBS 880's Mike Xirinachs. "The world today is not the world from yesterday."

"We have no other choice," another driver said, adding the traffic headaches are a small price to pay. "We love this man, he's a good man, we love him."

Security Tight As NYC Prepares To Welcome Pope Francis

Francis will also speak before 170 world leaders during the United Nations General Assembly on Friday. The NYPD says it has more than 6,000 officers covering the pope and the U.N.

The Secret Service is the lead agency protecting Francis, but they have been closely working with city law enforcement to carry out the security plan.

Robert Sica, special agent in charge at the Secret Service, said authorities are ready for anything.

"We evaluate threats every day here in New York and around the world and really, honestly, there's no credible threat directed at the UN or the papal visit and we are fully prepared for any scenario."

Near Central Park, more than 20,000 feet of eight-foot-high, steel mesh fencing lines the west side perimeter. That's where 80,000 ticketed spectators are expected Friday for the pope's procession along West Drive.

The Maranans, who have tickets to stand along the pope's welcome parade route on Fifth Avenue Thursday, were anticipating tight security and planned to get there at 1 p.m., well ahead of Francis' arrival.

"That's about six hours, seven hours to wait to get a glimpse of the pope," said Jennifer Maranan. "But it will be worth it."

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Yvette Perez Aponte secured her spot on Fifth Avenue at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

"We wanted to make sure we got up front," she told 1010 WINS' Darius Radzius.

Jean Caputo of Westport, Connecticut, said the pope's visit comes when New York needs it most.

"For the city you can see it gives everybody hope, I think that's what everybody needs, everything is so crazy now," Caputo said.

The massive security apparatus protecting the pope on his historic, six-day trip to the United States got its first test during a brief parade after the White House reception.

A 5-year-old girl was able to make her way through a security barrier and onto the pope's route. After a quick moment with a pair of security agents, the girl was whisked to Francis' modified, open-air Jeep, where the pope gave her a hug and kiss.

Bratton said they're paying close attention to the pope's behavior in Washington so they know more of what to expect in New York. He said they have to be ready for his spontaneity.

"We are very ready, working with our colleagues -- the Secret Service, FBI, the many, many other agencies involved," Bratton said. "This has been months in the planning and people can come into New York and celebrate, enjoy and feel secure."

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said that despite the tight security, Francis "intends to move around as he usually does.''

Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration is reminding people that New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., have been declared temporary no-drone zones during the pope's visit to the U.S.

The FAA has put in flight restrictions through Sept. 27. That means flying a drone or unmanned aircraft anywhere in those cities is against the law and may result in criminal or civil charges.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 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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