Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Years Blockade

It was 11pm at Seattle Tacoma International Airport. I had chosen probably the dumbest seat in front of my gate: the one facing the TV news monitor underneath the speaker. Just where you want to be to get some sleep before a red-eye flight. It was the night of December 30th, so between a special on urban transportation around the world and reports on dire flooding in Australia, New Years in New York City was the big headliner. The crowd at Times Square, CNN reported, was expected to top 1 million people. Probably one of the biggest parties in the world. Probably.

I'd bought my plane tickets months in advance-- I wanted to be in New York for New Years in Times Square. That was before I started telling people who lived here about my ideas.

They thought I was nuts.

Times Square, they explained, was the very last place anyone would ever want to be for New Years. Yes, there is a ball on a stick and it mechanically slides down a few feet. To be able to see it, you had to show up around 2pm, before the police erected barricades.

Yes, police barricades. New York City likes its barricades. No, CNN reported, there had been no threats, no warnings from any government intelligence agency, and no suspicious rumors, but that wasn't going to stop the New York Police Department from shutting the whole place down, arming huge patrols, mounting an array of security cameras everywhere, and putting up a triangular perimeter of barricades, restricting the movement even of residents and employees within the square.

By the way, inside that perimeter, there are no public restrooms. Zero. Some people come wearing diapers. I'm not making this up. Now the suspected amount of muggers and pickpockets I can deal with (don't carry anything valuable), the drunk people I can deal with (general attitude and not wearing anything I can't wash), but the stories of diapers were kind of what put it over the top.

But I'd heard rumors that you could get a clear line of sight, albeit a far one, from the 42nd street library on the east side. So I thought I'd try my luck.

Even that had been shut down. There was a huge crowd of people there by 10pm, probably long before, and the police had blocked it off, too. So much for that. I wandered a bit soaking up the general atmosphere, and seeing how close I could get.

The picture above wasn't the closest I got to Times Square, but it's probably the best representation of what I saw.

Skipping a story that's longer than it is interesting, I ended up in a party in Brooklyn for the actual countdown. We saw a live video feed of Times Square, and afterwards a lot of people were interviewed. Funnily enough, I don't believe a single one of them was from New York City. Considering that there were 1 million people there, and that the city's normal population is around 8 million, that's quite a feat.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe the NYPD was blocking it all off for themselves :) ?