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Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting Ceremony Goes Off Without A Hitch

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was lit Wednesday night without incident.

After Wednesday's mass shooting in San Bernardino, California that claimed the lives of 14 people, security was on the top of many people's minds.

Especially in places with large crowds.

As CBS2's Hazel Sanchez reported, security was extra tight as thousands of people gathered at Rockefeller Center for the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

"I'm not worried. I don't see fear, life you know, and I'm just glad to be here. I'm excited," Sue Megee said.

Sue and her husband Carl were in town from Lexington, Kentucky and were in New York City for the first time. They shared the sentiment echoed by many who anticipated the tree lighting.

"I saw a lot of uniform police people down where we ate, and just milling around, and of course it does give you a feeling of security," Megee said.

Janet Errante of St. Louis, gave high praise on a job well done for the NYPD.

The annual lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree has been a New York tradition since 1933.

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"It's like the official start of the holiday season for me," one woman said.

Along with all the Christmas cheer, spectators noticed a heavy police presence at the event Wednesday night, CBS2's Andrea Grymes reported.

The NYPD said there are still no credible threats against New York City, but they're not taking any chances.

Barricades went up on Fifth Avenue and surrounding blocks hours before the ceremony started. Officers and NYPD vehicles were already in the area. Police say 48th, 49th, 50th and 51st Streets between Avenue of the Americas and Fifth Avenue are subject to closure. Drivers are being urged to avoid the area through 11 p.m.
Last Thursday, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton told CBS2 a lot of what people saw on Thanksgiving Day in terms of security will be in place throughout the entire holiday season.

"We have the lighting of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center, then we have the millions of tourists and shoppers right through New Year's Eve," Bratton said last week. "So these five weeks are a really busy time for the city and for the New York City police department."

More than 2,500 officers were stationed along the parade route, including cops from a newly formed elite counterterrorism unit. That unit will reach the full strength of 560 officers by New Year's Eve.

The parade went off without any major security issues.

Bratton said New Yorkers should feel confident as they enjoy the city through the holidays.

"I encourage people to be aware, but not be afraid and to feel secure," Bratton said.

Terror fears kicked into high gear for many New Yorkers after the attacks in Paris last month and a subsequent ISIS video that came out a week before the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The video showed a suicide bomber along with footage of the Times Square and Herald Square areas.


New Yorkers and tourists had mixed reactions when it comes to security.

"I feel very comfortable. Their presence is great," one man said.

"The extra show of force really doesn't make any real difference. Counterterrorism is what's going to get the job done," Upper East Side resident Alexander Fleiss said.

"I think they'll certainly try their best to make it safe. Whether or not it's effective, I don't know, but I'm sure they'll try their best," said Rohanna Thomas, who works in Midtown.

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