Bomb sniffing dogs, sand laden blocker vehicles, heavily armed counterterrorism cops, and drone detection devices are some of the usual security measures the NYPD will have in place for New Year's Eve in Times Square.
But, in the year of COVID-19, the crucial difference will be the lack of a million-plus people packed into the area to watch the iconic ball drop. In fact, so few will be in the area that the NYPD will be deploying 80% fewer cops, sending them instead to other parts of the city where they might be needed.
At a news conference Wednesday to spell out the holiday's security measures in Times Square, NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan pulled up the welcome mat and told the world to stay away.
"Don’t come," Monahan said emphatically. "Do not come to the area. If you think you are going to be able to stand there and watch the ball, you are mistaken. Don’t come."
Instead, Monahan said people should watch the event on television, which he said will be a "spectacular" event.
If anyone decides to gather and gawk at the ball drop from the street, they will be told by officers to move along, said Monahan. He added that the five hotels in the area will be allowed to operate but their guests will be asked to remain indoors for the evening.
Beginning at midnight Wednesday, the NYPD will be creating an inner frozen zone to the exclusion of vehicular and pedestrian traffic. That zone will run from 45th Street to 49th Street, between Sixth and Eighth avenues, said Chief of Patrol Juanita Holmes. Then beginning at 3 p.m. Thursday, the frozen zone will be extended south to 41st Street, within Sixth and Eighth avenues, she said.
With midtown Manhattan parking and traffic problematic, police were recommending that people use mass transit to get around. Anticipating a crush of subway users, Guardian Angels president and founder Curtis Sliwa said in a statement that his red beret-wearing members will be out in force to help keep the peace. The patrols will also be in evidence around Times Square, said Sliwa.
Referring to the proliferation of drone technology, NYPD counterterrorism chief Martine Materasso reminded the public that it is illegal to fly the devices within the confines of New York City. In recent years the department has used drone interdiction technology to police large events like the Times Square celebration.
And while 2020 may be the crowdless year on New Year's Eve, Monahan sounded a note of optimism about the future.
"Next year, we will be all able to gather together and fill Times Square," he said.