NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – People from all over the world are packed Times Square well ahead of time Wednesday, and up to a million revelers were expected to converge on the plaza to ring in 2015.
With blankets and chairs, many spectators were braving the bitter cold ahead of Wednesday’s New Year’s Eve celebration in hopes of securing a prime viewing spot for the ball drop.
“I wanted to get here early because I thought there were going to be a lot of people,” Rebecca Perez from Carmel, N.Y. told CBS2’s Janelle Burrell.
“It’s like a dream come true for me,” another woman told 1010 WINS’ Darius Radzius.
On Tuesday, organizers tested the glittering 11,875-pound Waterford crystal ball atop 1 Times Square.
“You certainly don’t want to screw it up when you have a billion people watching,” said Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance.
“We’re going to have a great celebration to ring in the new year,” said Jeffrey Straus with Countdown Entertainment. “This is our opportunity to come together to celebrate the future.”
Ryan Seacrest will host the countdown show, withTaylor Swift, Idina Menzel, Florida Georgia Line and Magic! among the musical guests.
When the clock strikes midnight and the ball drops, so will 1 ton of confetti containing well wishes for the upcoming year.
As CBS2’s Jessica Schneider reported, security in Times Square was tight well ahead of the event. One by one, everyone who came to the festival was screened in a thorough process that was to go on for hours.
People packed into metal pens and set up all around Times Square. Once a pen filled up, it was closed off. Police began filling another until everyone was in place for the big ball drop.
“You get wanded; make sure there’s no weapons, knives, and seems secure,” said Tom Bridgman of Chicago.
Thousands of NYPD officers, including all of the new academy grads, were out in force in Times Square and all over the city.
“We’re absolutely concerned about the security of everyone there, including the police officers,” NYPD Chief of Department James O’Neill. “We will be patrolling the city by air, by sea, on the ground and in the subway system.”
An NYPD spokesman told WCBS 880’s Monica Miller the department is investigating all threats made against police, including those on social media referencing possible New Year’s Eve attacks on cops.
If any anti-police protesters show up at Times Square, they will be allowed in, but they would have to arrive early because eager merrymakers often wait 10 hours or more to get a good spot to view the show.
That also means staying put behind the metal pens. There are no bathrooms and once people leave, they can’t come back to their spot.
Some revelers wore adult diapers to avert the prospect of not peeing for several hours.
Alcohol is also forbidden.
Police also had a strict rule against backpacks, and they had already confiscated hundreds by 5 p.m.
“I think it’s probably, just looking, one of the safest places to be, probably,” said Shelly Pappas of Houston. “I’m not worried about security at all. I’m not. I feel pretty safe.”
Each year, the police department assigns thousands of extra patrol officers to the festivities to control the crowd and watch for any signs of trouble. Visitors will see heavily armed counterterrorism teams and bomb-sniffing dogs. Rooftop patrols and NYPD helicopters will keep an eye on the crowd and plainclothes officers will blend in with revelers.
“Times Square is probably the safest place in New York City on New Year’s Eve,” O’Neill said.
The bomb squad and a 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 also rely on a network of thousands of closed-circuit security cameras blanketing lower Manhattan, parts of midtown Manhattan and the subway system.
“This sophisticated network of closed-circuit TV feeds 911 calls, suspicious package alerts and radiation level readings,” O’Neill. “This works in real-time to send messages to police and security personnel.”