No, tens of thousands of revelers won’t be cramming into Times Square’s five blocks spanning the bow-tie-shaped zone between Seventh Avenue and Broadway. Tourists won’t be traveling from around the world to count the 60 seconds down to 2021. No blowing of noisemakers, no New Year's kissing, in shoulder-to-shoulder proximity, at the stroke of midnight, egged on by New York City’s mayor.
That’s all "Auld Lang Syne" in 2020 for a city still suffering through a deadly pandemic.
Starting Dec. 31, 2020, the 113-year-old celebration is be telecast on TV and streamed online "without public revelers in attendance," the Times Square Alliance announced Tuesday — the latest holiday tradition during the pandemic to be canceled or drastically curtailed to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The few performers and honorees this year must be masked, socially distanced and otherwise following anti-contagion protocols, according to the alliance.
Gloria Gaynor is scheduled to sing "I Will Survive" live at the muted festivities, where the "Heroes of 2020" — "first responders, front line and essential workers and their families who sacrificed so much in 2020 to provide care and support for their communities" — are to be honored.
"These New York stories of sacrifice and public service are representative of family stories in every community in every state across our country and around the world," the alliance wrote in a news release, designating them "special guests."
Among past "special guests": Bill and Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Lady Gaga.
"Historically, the Special Guest/s joins the Mayor of New York City on the mainstage just before midnight to lead the sixty-second countdown to midnight and press the Waterford Crystal button that signals the Ball Drop. This year, due to onsite social distancing protocols, the Special Guests will not appear on stage. Instead, each Special Guest will watch the event from a private, physically distanced viewing area," the release said.
The celebration of the new year in Times Square dates to at least 1907, when the first ball "made its maiden descent from the flagpole atop One Times Square," according to the alliance website. The city regularly claims the crowd size is 1 million to 2 million, but an analysis in 2018 by The Associated Press concluded it's likely just about 100,000.
In recent years, to accommodate and protect the crowds, the NYPD had closed off 37th to 59th streets and Sixth to Eighth avenues, and the area sealed off with barriers to keep terrorists out.