New York City police resorted to familiar tactics ahead of Thursday’s New Year’s Eve celebrations, deploying bomb-sniffing dogs and sanitary trucks filled with sand to ward off blasts.
But the department’s manual of measurements this year includes an unusual mandate: prevent crowds of any size from gathering in Times Square.
Citing concerns about the spread of COVID-19, police closed the Crossing of the World to vehicles and pedestrians at midnight and said they would disperse any spectators who ventured into the so-called “frozen zone” – the blocks surrounding the ball that historically They draw crowds shoulder to shoulder.
The coronavirus has disrupted public life for months, and New Year’s Eve will be no different. This year, police said revelers heading to Times Square will not be allowed to pass police lines.
“If you think you’re going to be able to stand there and watch the ball, you’re wrong,” said Department Head Terence Monahan, referring to the sparkling crystal ball that descends from a flagpole in Times Square every New Year’s Eve to mark the hit of midnight.
Still, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised, “It’s going to be a happy night, if there ever was one. Bye, 2020. Here’s something better: 2021.”
“I can’t wait to get started” turning the page in a year when New York became an epicenter of the pandemic in the spring, the Democratic mayor said. The city has counted more than 25,000 deaths attributed to the virus.
NY1 reporter Roger Clark tweeted a photo of Time Square noting that the scene seems somewhat “surreal” due to the absence of an audience.
The NYPD announced a two-part freeze that would be extended from 3 p.m. Even guests at five hotels in the area have been told to stay inside.
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Juanita Holmes, the NYPD patrol chief, urged would-be partygoers to call in 2021 “from the comfort of their home.”
“Coming to Times Square is a family tradition for some. For others it is a list of things to do. But this year is different,” he said. “I can’t stress how important it is for everyone to stay home.”
The Police Department will continue to deploy heavy weapons teams, explosives sniffer dogs, drones and sand trucks. But it has planned a drastic reduction in the presence in Times Square, including an 80% reduction in its typical workforce assigned to the area.
“We always have to prepare for the worst in terms of the counter-terrorism overlap,” said Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, “but the crowds will not be like other years.”
This year’s celebration will unfold without the usual crowds of revelers cheering and kissing. In fact, the event’s special guests, first responders and essential workers, were expected to view the festivities from a well-spaced, private area.
“It’s almost like an episode of ‘Seinfeld,'” Shea said, invoking the “show about nothing” from the 1990s.
“This is a ball drop on nothing, where you can’t see,” he said, “so you better stay home.”
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