BY DEAN MOSES
Police Executives emphasized that Times Square will be off limits on New Year’s Eve during a security briefing at 1 Police Plaza Wednesday morning.
Due to the ongoing state of the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be no crowds permitted anywhere near the vicinity of the iconic ball drop during the countdown to 2021. “Not even for a glimpse,” says NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan.
“Don’t come, do not come to the area. If you think you’re going to be able to stand there and watch the ball, you are mistaken,” Chief Monahan said pointedly.
Just one day before what is usually considered one of the grandest celebrations in New York City, the heart of Manhattan will be sectioned-off from the public starting at midnight tonight. On Thursday evening, the only individuals allowed will be invited guests and staff working on the televised production, police sources announce.
Chief Monahan explained that like everyone else, the NYPD looks forward to the celebrations and is disappointed with an empty Times Square, but this year has been nothing short of unprecedented. “We’re asking for everyone’s help this year. Stay at home with your family. Let’s put 2020 in the rear-view mirror and welcome 2021 with the hope that we can all soon start to celebrate together in a COVID free New York City, and let’s all look forward to a tremendous Times Square Party to welcome in 2022.”
There will also be an 80% reduction in the number of officers patrolling Times Square in order to ensure that members of the department can be circulated throughout the entire borough, dispersing any large crowd that may gather in the streets. New York City streets and subways are scheduled to be monitored for clusters of individuals looking to ring in the new year with substantial parties. In accordance with social distancing measures, there will likewise be no firework display in Coney Island and no midnight run in Central Park.
Although there is a reduction in officer presence this year in Times Square, vigilant anti-terrorism protection will be patrolling the area for any potential threats. Chief of Counterterrorism Martine Materasso took the time to assure the concerned that–at this time–there are no active or credible threats against the celebration. While this news will be comforting, the usual precautions will still be taken to ensure safety.
“Due to the iconic status of it, we must always treat it as a potential target for anyone looking to disrupt the event,” Materasso said, citing the recent domestic terrorist incident in Nashville on Christmas Day. “As always we take a close look at attacks such as this in the US and across the world.”
Some familiar security measures for the Times Square event will still be taken, including placing concrete barriers, conducting pre-sweeps of parking garages near the location, along with entry point screenings.
Juanita Holmes, NYPD chief of patrol, announced that there will be a two-part freeze for the entire area beginning at midnight tonight; portions of Times Square will be shut down for both cars and pedestrian traffic from 49th Street to 45th Street along 6th Avenue to 8th Avenue. The second half of the freeze will begin at 3 pm Thursday, closing down 41st to 49th Streets from 6th Avenue to 8th Avenue.
“Coming to Times Square for New Year’s is a family tradition for some, it is a bucket list item for others. But this year is different. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for everyone to stay home,” Holmes said.
For those who presume they will be able to take advantage of the reduction in NYPD patrol throughout Times Square and sneak a peek at the festivities, Monahan had four words of warning: “Don’t even try it.”
This story originally appeared on amny.com.