NEW YORK — New Yorkers, celebrity entertainers and tourists from around the world packed into a frigid Times Square on Sunday to mark the start of 2018 with a glittering crystal ball drop, a burst of more than a ton of confetti and midnight fireworks.
It was only 14 degrees in the city by late afternoon — already making it one of the coldest celebrations on record. Security was at an all-time high after a year that saw several fatal attacks on large crowds, including one in Times Square itself last spring.
Remle Scott, 22, and her boyfriend, Brad Whittaker, 22, of San Diego arrived shortly after 9 a.m., saying they were trying to keep a positive attitude as temperatures hovered in the teens. Each was wearing several layers of clothing.
“Our toes are frozen, so we’re just dealing with it by dancing.” Scott said.
Some wore red scarfs that read “Happy New Year,” and others donned yellow and purple hats as a pizza deliveryman sold pies to the hungry crowd.
In a prime viewing spot near 42nd Street, Alexander Ebrahim grinned as he looked around at the flashing lights of Times Square.
“I always saw it on TV, so I thought why not come out and see it in person,” said the 19-year-old from Orange County, Calif. “It’s an experience you can never forget.”
Michael Waller, 45, made a snap decision Saturday evening to drive straight from Columbus, Ohio. He made it to Times Square at 8 a.m. and waited all day in front of the ball.
“I didn’t want to stay home for this, by myself,” he said.
Mariah Carey was to perform again on “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” hosted by Ryan Seacrest, after a bungled performance last year in which she stumbled through her short set, failing to sing for most of it despite a prerecorded track of her songs playing in the background. Carey was visibly upset during the performance and she blamed the show’s production team, but they ultimately buried the hatchet. Carey posted an advertisement featuring herself for the show on Dec. 22 that said: “Take 2.”
The dazzling finale of the show was the traditional drop of a Waterford Crystal ball down a pole atop One Times Square.
This year, the ball is 12 feet in diameter, weighs 11,875 pounds and is covered with 2,688 triangles that change colors like a kaleidoscope, illuminated by 32,256 LED lights. When the first ball drop was held in 1907, the ball it was made of iron and wood and adorned with 100 25-watt light bulbs. The first celebration in the area was in 1904, the same year the city’s first subway line started running.
After two terrorist attacks and a rampaging SUV driver who plowed into a crowd on the very spot where the party takes place, police were taking no chances.
Security was tighter than ever before. Garages in the area were emptied of cars and sealed off. Detectives were stationed at area hotels working with security officials to prevent sniper attacks.
Thousands of uniformed officers lined the streets. Cement blocks and sanitation trucks were used to block vehicles from entering the secure area where spectators gathered. Revelers had to pass through one of a dozen checkpoints for screenings as they made their way to the main event.
At the corner of 48th Street and 7th Avenue, Chris Garcia, his girlfriend, Zayra Velazquez, and her brother Edgar Valdez stood rigidly, having waited in the cold for hours. Valdez, 19, said he felt “pretty safe” at the event.
“They checked us pretty good,” he said. “Police checked what we had, and another scanned us with metal detectors.”
The police department estimates that it cost $7.5 million to protect the event.
The event rivaled some of the coldest New Year’s celebrations on record: In 1962 it was just 11 degrees, and in 1939 and 2008 it was 18 degrees. At least it won’t be as cold as the frostiest ball drop on record: 1 degree in 1907.
Tarana Burke, an activist who started a “Me Too” campaign a decade ago to raise awareness about sexual violence, was to start this year’s ceremonial ball drop, pushing the crystal button that officially began the 60-second countdown to the new year.
A flurry of tweets, Instagram and Facebook posts ensued after actress-activist Alyssa Milano urged victims to respond with the phrase “me too.” Milano initially wasn’t aware of Burke’s earlier campaign and has since publicly credited her. Burke said she hopes the new year will bring “new momentum to fuel this work and we won’t stop anytime soon.”
Just minutes after midnight, partygoers drain from the area as if a giant tub stopper has been pulled up. And the cleanup begins, led by a small army of city employees including more than 200 sanitation workers, dozens of police officers who clear the area of confetti and other garbage. Crews removed more than 44 tons of debris last year.
Associated Press radio correspondent Julie Walker contributed to this report.
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