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Times Square upgrades done in time for New Year’s Eve festivities

The Times Square Ball illuminates briefly above One

The Times Square Ball illuminates briefly above One Times Square Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016, as it is tested in preparation for the annual event that draws millions to the heart of New York City. Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

Years-in-the-works upgrades to Times Square have been finished in time for New Year’s Eve, the de Blasio administration announced Wednesday.

Expanded pedestrian plazas, new places to sit and an additional bike lane for southbound traffic — plus restrictive zones to constrain costumed characters and topless female performers — are among the upgrades.

To the consternation of some motorists who drive through midtown, de Blasio’s predecessor, Mike Bloomberg, announced in 2009 that pedestrian plazas would replace car and truck traffic in Times Square, on Broadway between West 42nd Street and West 47th Street.

“Being able to carve out 2 acres of new space for pedestrians in one of the world’s most popular plazas is a remarkable gift to the tens of millions of people who visit the Crossroads of the World each year,” said Feniosky Peña-Mora, commissioner of the city’s Department of Design and Construction, the agency that helped oversee the project.

It began in 2013 and cost about $55 million, according to de Blasio’s office. The work also upgraded lighting, electricity and other utilities.

The five pedestrian plazas encompassing nearly 2 acres — about 85,000 square feet — had been filled with traffic passing through busy central Manhattan.

Last year, the de Blasio administration was roiled by a controversy over the topless women in Times Square who cover themselves in paint, as well as costumed cartoon characters and other tip-seeking hucksters. Critics said the presence of the hucksters heralded a return to New York City’s crime-ridden past, and the administration convened a committee to figure out how to control the situation.

In the reconfigured Times Square, the women and characters are confined to colored-coded pavement areas.

The city also announced that Ban Ki-moon, outgoing secretary-general of the United Nations, will help drop Times Square’s famous ball Saturday night, ushering in 2017.

On Thursday, the mayor is set to outline security arrangements for New Year’s Eve, expected to draw hundreds of thousands of spectators.

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