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Revelers set to pack into Times Square for annual New Year's Eve ball drop

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NEW YORK (AP) — The confetti has been tested for airiness. The giant numerals – 2 0 2 4 – are in place. And the luminous ball, bedazzled in 2,688 crystal triangles, is fixed to the pole from which it make its 60-second descent at 11:59 p.m.

With throngs of revelers set to usher in the new year under the bright lights of Times Square, officials and organizers say they are prepared to welcome the crowds and ensure their safety.

At a security briefing on Friday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams said there were “no specific threats” to the annual New Year’s Eve bash, which is expected to draw tens of thousands of people to the heart of midtown Manhattan on Sunday.

The celebrity-filled event will include live performances from Flo Rida, Megan Thee Stallion, LL Cool Jm as well as televised appearances from Cardi B and others. Organizers said in-person attendance is expected to return to pre-COVID levels, even as foot traffic around Times Square remains down slightly since the pandemic.

Amid near-daily protests in New York sparked by fighting between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza, police said they would expand the security perimeter around the party, creating a “buffer zone” that will allow them to head off potential demonstrations.

Pro-Palestinian marches have disrupted recent events in New York, including the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the ceremonial lighting of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree,

“We will be out here with our canines, on horseback, our helicopters, our boats,” Adams said. Officials will also monitor protests with drones, he said. “But as we saw last year, after having no specific threats we get a threat."

During last year’s New Year’s Eve party, a machete-wielding man attacked three police officers a few blocks from Times Square.

Tom Harris, the president of the Times Square Alliance, said there would always be security concerns, but praised the police department’s measures to ensure participant safety. Backpacks, duffel bags and alcohol are banned inside the security perimeter, and all attendees must pass through police checkpoints.

His advice for those planning to attend the countdown: “Come early.”