NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The clock is ticking closer to midnight, and people in Times Square are getting ready to ring in the new year.
Police told CBS2’s Ali Bauman as of 7:55 p.m., pens in Times Square were filled between 43rd and 53rd streets. A crowd estimate was not immediately available. But the NYPD was expecting about 2 million people.
The revelers flocked into Times Square in droves for the world famous New Year’s Eve ball drop. The annual event is a massive security challenge for law enforcement, and this year’s frigid temperatures are sure to make matters more demanding for officials and visitors alike.
Still, that did not stop the huge crowd from coming out Sunday night to watch the iconic ball drop. Worldwide, more than a billion people will ring in 2018 with their eyes glued to the opulent crystal ball as it drops before the crowd of revelers packed into the crossroads of the world.
People had to line up for hours ahead of the big event just to get in and wait on what’s expected to be one of the coldest days of the year, with temperatures well below freezing expected at midnight.
Thousands of NYPD officers are on patrol, and police Commissioner James O’Neill said the bitter cold does create more obstacles.
“It does present some challenges, but as you go through the checkpoints, it’s going to be a number of police officers there on the corner in the middle of the block — and when you come into the pens too,” O’Neill said.
Officials urged those brave enough to face the arctic blast to cover every inch of exposed skin. Also, no umbrellas or backpacks are allowed — if you had them, officials said you would be turned away.
No alcohol was allowed in, and drinking beforehand was discouraged because it causes the body to lose heat more quickly.
One thing partygoers can rely on is increased security. The NYPD says Times Square will be the “safest place in the world” on New Year’s Eve.
The department has been planning for Sunday’s revelry for the entire year, and has also made adjustments after recent terror attacks in the city. There will be teams of snipers, bag inspecting officers, and vapor wake dogs — able to detect airborne explosive particles.
“Every hotel in this area is covered by uniformed officers working hand-in-hand with the hotel security,” said NYPD Chief of Patrol Terry Monahan. “We have observation posts all over covering the area on high ground with counter sniper capabilities.”
Plus, people saw more metal detectors and barricades than ever before.
“There are some extra barricades to prevent any kind of vehicular intrusions,” Times Square Alliance President Tim Tompkins said, adding authorities have added extra security within hotels and undercover officers on patrol throughout the event.
“Out of all places, I feel really safe and secure here,” said Raul Rivello of Washington, D.C.
While officers had their eyes on the crowd, revelers watched the iconic crystal ball rise into place. But that could only distract from the painfully frigid air.
“I don’t think I’m going to make it,” said Enrique Campos of Cuba, who had a blanket. “Some girl, she just walked out — she leave this for me.”
“It’s definitely hard, but I’m not the only one who has to deal with it, so I’m not alone,” one reveler said.
“It’s a bucket list item, and who needs all your toes?” another said.
Newlyweds Jonathan and Heather Poriy of Denver were thinking warm thoughts, like their Costa Rican honeymoon that ended Saturday.
“We were 82 degrees yesterday. Now we’re like 14,” Jonathan Poriy said. “It’s crazy.”
Several streets have been closed in the area. The security zone will be roughly 22 streets long and three avenues wide. Police recommend avoiding cross streets from 34th to 59th Streets.
Parking garages in the zone were be closed, and subway service stopped in Times Square at 7 p.m.