When revelers pack Times Square to ring in 2014, they will be greeted with some familiar practices: The annual ball drop, a hefty police presence and live musical performances. But for the first time in a decade, a New York City mayor won’t attend the countdown at the crossroads of the world.
Outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who attended every other celebration during his tenure, hobnobbing with celebrities and receiving a peck on the cheek from Lady Gaga, said he’s sitting out Tuesday’s festivities to spend time with family and friends. And Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio will be busy being sworn into office at a private ceremony at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday at his Brooklyn home. The full inauguration begins at noon at City Hall.
Instead, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a New York City native, will lead the final 60-second countdown and push the ceremonial button to signal the descent of the Times Square New Year’s Eve ball.
“She is an inspiration to everyone determined to achieve their dreams in 2014,” said Jeffrey Straus, president of Countdown Entertainment, which runs the event.
About 1 million people from all over the world are expected to pack into the bow-tie-shaped stretch of streets in midtown Manhattan to see the crystal ball drop and count down to 2014, organizers said.
Ryan Seacrest will host the countdown show from Times Square, with Melissa Etheridge, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Miley Cyrus, Icona Pop and Blondie among the musical guests. Seacrest has hosted the past few years; longtime host Dick Clark died last year.
When the clock strikes 12 and the glittering ball drops, so will 1 ton of confetti — scraps of paper with well wishes for the upcoming year.
Temperatures were expected to be in the mid-20s, and revelers were encouraged to dress warmly and bring layers. Eager merrymakers often arrive hours early to get a good spot to view the show — but that means staying put behind metal police pens. There are no bathrooms and once people leave, they can’t come back to their spot. Police check backpacks. No alcohol is allowed.
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. Security in Times Square has tightened in the post-9/11 world, especially since the botched attempted car bombing there in the summer of 2010. More recently, the two Massachusetts-based brothers charged in the Boston Marathon bombing discussed coming to the neon-lit district after setting off pressure cooker bombs along the marathon route, prosecutors said.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly stressed there are no specific terror threats related to a celebration televised across the globe.
“You know, we devote a lot of police officers, plus there are a lot of other events that are happening throughout the city that will be policed, as well. So I think we’re in good shape,” Kelly said, referring to shows in Brooklyn and other events.
Visitors will see bomb-sniffing dogs and heavily armed counterterrorism teams. Rooftop patrols and NYPD helicopters will keep an eye on the crowd as well. 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 Times Square subway station and certain exits will be blocked off. The NYPD will rely on a network of thousands of closed-circuit security cameras blanketing the roughly 1.7 square miles south of Canal Street, the subway system and parts of midtown Manhattan.
After the show, sanitation crews will get to work mopping up the celebration, working through the night to rid the area of an estimated 50 tons of confetti, party hats and other remainders of the revelry.