New York officials on Friday tried to reassure people planning to take in Times Square on New Year’s Eve that there were “no specific credible threats” against Sunday’s festivities.
The Police Department is preparing for hundreds of thousands of attendees at the annual ball drop in Times Square and will deploy thousands of officers, including 631 who graduated from the Police Academy on Friday, said Jeffrey Maddrey, the police’s chief of department, at a news conference on Friday.
Law enforcement will be monitoring an expanded area in Manhattan with canine units and officers on horseback. Helicopters and boats will also be deployed. “The full complement of our public safety apparatus will be on display,” Mayor Eric Adams said at the conference.
Drones will be deployed along the outer perimeter of the security zone surrounding Times Square to monitor potential protests in real time, according to officials.
The Police Department has monitored more than 400 protests since Oct. 7, when Hamas attacked Israel, Mr. Adams said. Overall, the department has been successful in keeping pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protests peaceful, he said. However, there have been “a handful of protesters” who have tried to “embed themselves in some of the protests and bring about disruption,” Mr. Adams said.
“It’s not going to be tolerated,” he warned on Friday. “It’s not going to be accepted.”
Officials said that law enforcement agents were prepared for demonstrators on Sunday and that an expanded security zone this year would allow the police to respond to emergencies quickly while keeping protesters out of the Times Square area.
Pro-Palestinian activists have called for a march and rally on Sunday afternoon at Columbus Circle, located at the northern end of the police’s security zone, which runs along Central Park South.
The protest, called “Shut It Down! For Palestine,” is being organized by several groups, including the People’s Forum, an educational and cultural organization in the city. Last month, a pro-Palestinian demonstration blocks away from the lighting ceremony for the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree resulted in several arrests after demonstrators broke through police barricades and got into altercations with officers. On Christmas Day, six protesters were arrested during a pro-Palestinian march through Midtown Manhattan.
On Wednesday, amid the busy holiday travel season, more than two dozen pro-Palestinian protesters were arrested after they blocked traffic heading to Kennedy International Airport in Queens.
Since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in October, pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian demonstrations have been held on a near daily basis in New York City. The conflict has intensified tensions on college campuses in New York and across the country, and resulted in verbal and physical clashes on the city’s streets.
Each December, millions of people across the country watch the ball — which this year weighs 11,875 pounds and is covered with 2,688 crystal triangles — as it descends the pole at One Times Square to mark the beginning of the new year.
The New Year’s Eve celebrations in Times Square, typically packed with revelers, can act as a barometer for the city and the world. In December 2020, nearly a year after the first reported case of Covid-19 appeared in the United States, the ball dropped in Times Square without an in-person audience. In 2021, the crowd size was capped at 15,000.
The night’s festivities also pose a unique security challenge for law enforcement in the city. A significant portion of the streets below Central Park, between Sixth and Eighth Avenues and extending south to 38th Street, will be inaccessible to drivers starting at about 11 a.m. on Sunday, according to the police.
In 2022, a man who had driven from Maine to New York attacked three police officers with a machete near Times Square on New Year’s Eve. The authorities said the man, Trevor Bickford, who was 19 at the time and had recently converted to Islam, had carried out a “jihad-inspired” terrorist attack.