- The Washington Times - Friday, December 28, 2001

New York officials expect Times Square's New Year's Eve celebration to be as cheery as ever despite the shadow of September 11, the police officers with radiation sensors, and warnings that backpacks and packages are not allowed in the area.
"We're going to hand out American flags and red, silver and blue pompoms and balloons. We're mindful of what happened on September 11. Yet we think people will want to come out and celebrate. We're expecting a crowd as large as last year bigger if it doesn't snow as it did on Dec. 31, 2000," says Roberto Esposito.
Mr. Esposito heads the Times Square Business Improvement District, which organizes the annual event. Last year's bash culminated with some 500,000 cheering spectators craning their necks to watch a 1,070-pound Waterford crystal ball descend from the peak of the One Times Square building. The ball reaches bottom at the stroke of midnight.
Mr. Esposito explains that security will be tight this year. "But," he says, "It usually is."
A spokesman for the New York Police Department says, "What we're saying about the security is that we're not saying. You can be sure we've got the event covered."
However, the NYPD confirms that some of the officers on patrol will be wearing small, sensitive, battery-powered radiation sensors capable of detecting low levels of gamma and X-rays. The devices, similar to those used by U.S. Customs Service agents, are designed to detect the type of material used in "radiation-dispersal bombs" or "dirty nukes."
Besides that, Mr. Esposito explains there will be other major changes in this year's event.
Representatives of the September 11 victims will meet at One Times Square in late afternoon, and, at 6 p.m., there will be a moment of silence that ends with a mass, solemn ringing of church, fire department and hand bells across the city.
As the bells peal, the crystal ball will begin its climb to the building's pinnacle. In the past, the ball was raised without fanfare.
The ball is composed of 504 triangular crystals. This year 200 of the crystals have been etched with symbols and the names of places from which the September 11 victims came and with the names of fire and police units whose members died in the terrorist attacks.
"When the ball is disassembled, the etched triangles will be given to the firehouses and police precincts," Mr. Esposito says.
Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, this year's special honored guest, will push the button that turns on the ball's 432 light bulbs in preparation for its descent into the new year. And shortly after midnight, in an unprecedented ceremony, the mayor will turn over control of the city to his successor, Mayor-elect Michael R. Bloomberg.
The symbolic transfer of power is meant to signal to New Yorkers and the world that nothing impedes the smooth transition of authority.

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