Ball Drops in Times Square, Ushering in 2014

A sea of horn-tooting, hat-wearing revelers who braved bone-chilling cold and ultra-tight security Tuesday cheered and some kissed as New York City's famed crystal ball dropped in Times Square, ushering in 2014.

Bronx-born U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor led the 60-second countdown and pressed the button that unleashed the shimmering orb with 2,688 crystals over the Crossroads of the World.

Marcus Ix, 34, visiting from Germany, gave his wife, Sabrina, a big kiss when the ball dropped and confetti rained down.

"This is the best New Year's Eve of my life," he said as the crowd erupted with cheers and cries of "Happy New Year!" ''It was worth the 13 hour wait in the cold."

The annual New York celebration, which this year featured performances from artists such as Miley Cyrus, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Blondie, has become part endurance sport because post-9/11 security measures force spectators into pens at least 12 hours in advance, with no food, warmth or bathrooms.

"We've got adult diapers. We're wearing them right now," said 14-year-old Amber Woods, who came with friends from the New York City's suburbs to experience the event for the first time.

They entered their corral at 10 a.m. For nourishment, they brought lollipops and popcorn. For the cold -- temperatures were quickly dipping into the 20s before the ball drop -- they did a lot of jumping in place.

"Every time I say, it's the last. But then I come back," said Yasmina Merrir, a 42-year-old Washington, D.C., resident attending her fourth Times Square ball drop. In 2009, the cold was so bad, she got hypothermia. Her legs swelled up like balloons.

She was also fasting and not drinking anything to deal with the lack of restrooms. As for the cold, she recommends vigorous dancing for as long as you can stand on your feet.

"At a point," she said, "your brain is not working anymore."

This year’s celebration marked the first time in a decade that a New York City wasn't be ringing in the new year.

Outgoing Mayor Bloomberg, who has been a mainstay at every other celebration during his tenure, sat out the festivities to spend time with family and friends. And Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio will be busy being sworn into office at a private ceremony at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday at his Brooklyn home. The full inauguration ceremony begins at noon at City Hall.

Each year, the NYPD assigns thousands of extra patrols to festivities — in ways seen and unseen — to control the crowd and watch for any signs of trouble. This year's festivities weren't any different as security in Times Square has tightened in the post-9/11 world, especially since the botched attempted car bombing there in the summer of 2010.

Visitors saw bomb-sniffing dogs and heavily armed counter-terrorism teams. Rooftop patrols and NYPD helicopters kept an eye on the crowd as well. Plainclothes officers were also assigned to blend into the crowd.

Many officers are wore palm-size radiation detectors designed to give off a signal if they detect evidence of a dirty bomb, an explosive intended to spread panic by creating a radioactive cloud.

After the show, sanitation crews got to work mopping up the celebration, working through the night to rid the area of an estimated 50 tons of confetti, party hats and other remainders of the revelry.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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