NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The NYPD plans to do something it has never done before to keep the 90th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade safe, after ISIS named the parade a target.
As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, there will be an unprecedented amount of security at the parade on Thursday when the bands start playing, the floats start rolling and the massive balloons take to the skies. It will be unlike anything spectators have seen before.
Performers for the parade were already rehearsing for the big day late Tuesday, CBS2’s Valerie Castro reported. An estimated 3 million people are expected to attend the parade — and many are nervous.
Bettina Page lives near the parade starting point on the Upper West Side.
“It’s just really scary no matter what precautions, and I’m glad they’re thinking ahead,” Page said.
The NYPD says there are no credible threats. But as early as Tuesday, authorities were already setting up police barricades and concrete barriers, and are expected to utilize more than 80 salt- and sand-filled trucks as an additional security barrier, CBS2’s Janelle Burrell reported.
The salt and sand trucks will be parked at every single intersection of the route to prevent possible car bombs from infiltrating the parade.
The sanitation trucks, once filled can weigh up to 30 tons, 1010 WINS’ Samantha Liebman reported.
“It is a very large detail,” said NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill. “I think this year, you’re going to see a lot more block cars and sand trucks on the cross-streets.”
Other security measures include heavy weapons teams, radiation detectors, counterterrorism cops, bomb-sniffing vapor wake dogs and officers with anemometers to measure wind speed, which will help regulate the height of the parade balloons, WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported.
“We will have our heavy weaponry out there that day, teams throughout the parade, there’ll be a lot that you can see, a lot that you can’t see out there,” NYPD Chief of Patrol Terrence Monahan said.
In total, more than 3,000 police officers will also be placed the entire 2 1/2-mile route, from 77th Street on the Upper West Side to 34th Street in Midtown.
Additionally, 42nd and 57th streets will be closed for the first year ever.
Message boards have already been set up warning truck drivers that streets will be shut down.
But with ongoing threats against the city, and a recent ISIS magazine article naming the parade as an “excellent target” for a truck attack, some New Yorkers are skeptical that any safety measures will make a difference.
“There’s little one can do to prevent a Boston bombing,” said resident Joel Yodowitz. “It’s easy to put something in a backpack.”
When asked by CBS2 about how they plan on vetting the parade’s participants, Macy’s replied with the following statement:
“With the exception of entertainment participants (the High School and College bands, performance groups and celebrities), everyone else in the Macy’s Parade is an employee, or a member of their family/friend or a business associate of the Parade, that employees sponsor.”
Scott Sloyer is an acquaintance of a Macy’s employee. He said it took him an entire year to be screened and accepted as a balloon wrangler.
“They checked my background as good as you can. Social Security number, driver’s license number and all those things,” Sloyer said. “That morning, I have to show a sheet of paper that has a QR code that they’ll scan and then match it with my driver’s license.”
Police declined to go into what is involved in background checks for parade participants.
“I don’t’ want to get into specifics of what we do check and what we don’t check, but we have a very, very close relationship with Macy’s and we know that people that are around the route have been vetted,” said NYPD Counterterrorism Chief James Waters.
Parade goers such as the Albert family from Rhode Island said they are not worried about their safety.
“It really wasn’t a consideration for our family, only because we don’t live our life in fear,” said Lisa Albert.
Kyle Lovelace and his family from North Carolina have attended the parade three times before. They said they are just looking forward to the special holiday event.
“Naturally, you’re going to have some concern about it, but I trust the NYPD is doing what it takes to keep everybody safe,” Lovelace said.
“We feel OK,” added Florida visitor Chiara Valloti. “We’re just excited.”
The extra security comes amid recent threats, including one mentioned in the latest edition of an ISIS magazine which called the parade an “excellent target” for a truck attack.
And on Monday, federal agents arrested 37-year-old Mohammed Rafik Naji at his home in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Prosecutors say Naji, a citizen of Yemen but a permanent legal resident of the U.S., is accused of trying to join ISIS multiple times.
Prosecutors said Naji, who works as an Uber driver, had hoped to carrying out an attack in Times Square similar to the Bastille Day attack in Nice, France in July that killed 86 people.
According to the criminal complaint, Naji allegedly told an informant: “If there is a truck, I mean a garbage truck and one drives it there to Times-Square and crushes them shshshshshsh…Times-Square Day…They want an operation in Times-Square.”
Naji’s attorney says he was flagged by the feds because of his visits to Yemen and Turkey last year, but she claims those trips were legitimate.
“The fact that he has family over there and three children didn’t affect the government one way or the other,” said attorney Susan Kellman. “But he had legitimate reasons to be over there.”
Naji is charged with providing material support to a terror group. His attorney said they are trying to put together a bail package.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the arrest a sharp reminder of the evolving threat of global terrorism.