Times Square will once again be filled with cheering crowds this New Year's Eve, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday as he invited hundreds of thousands of revelers to attend the United States' largest end-of-year celebration.
All revelers need to bring to attend is proof of full vaccination -- that includes anyone eligible, those ages 5 and older -- and a valid photo ID. Apart from that requirement, there won't be a cap on the Times Square crowd this Dec. 31.
Those who can't get a COVID-19 vaccine because of a disability can still attend, though they must provide proof of a negative COVID test within 72 hours of arrival. Kids younger than age 5 must be accompanied by a vaccinated adult, and anyone who can't be vaccinated -- whether due to age or disability -- must wear masks.
Times Square security checkpoints will be adjusted to allow additional time for NYPD and other officers to check the required documentation. More specifics will be released in the coming days, officials said, but the biggest news is out.
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It'll be a big "full-strength" celebration, de Blasio said as he blew a noisemaker with a half-dozen members of his team doing the same behind him. It didn't appear there would be a cap on the fully vaccinated Times Square crowd this Dec. 31.
"Everyone come on down," an exuberant de Blasio said. "We are proud to announce the ball drop, everything, coming back full strength, hundreds of people there to celebrate. We can finally get back together again. It's going to be amazing."
The ball drop to mark the end of yet another year ravaged heavily by the COVID-19 pandemic comes as the one-time epicenter of the crisis continues on an accelerated path of recovery, one de Blasio says has been fueled by vaccinations.
The Democrat described this year's New Year's Eve bash as one for the ages -- a viscerally inspirational moment for New York City, the nation and the globe.
"Join the crowd, join the joy, join a historic moment as New York City provides further evidence to the world that we are 100% back," de Blasio emphatically said.
Tuesday's announcement comes a day after the mayor hinted at a "large, wonderful celebration" to bring in 2022 after the Crossroads of the World featured eerily empty streets but for a small group of frontline workers as a ton of confetti rained down last year. last year, revelers were told point-blank "Don't come" to Times Square to celebrate but much has changed since then. More change is likely still to come.
Ultimately, the end-of-year bash will be a far cry from the crowd-less atmosphere that encapsulated 2020's festivities. Those came just before another significant COVID-19 wave overspread the United States -- and just as the very first vaccinations were becoming available to healthcare and other frontline workers.
All the celebrations and festivities will still be broadcast live on TV and streaming online as they were last year. But the atmosphere will most certainly feel different, beating with the unified heart of a city once -- and in some ways, forever -- devastated by COVID that is finding its footing once again in a powerful way.
City officials have been working tirelessly to help bring Times Square back to life and tracking their progress along the way. Pedestrian traffic tells its own story, according to Tom Harris, president of the Times Square Alliance. His organization has been tracking foot traffic. It's up 50% over the last few months, he said.
Last Saturday, more than 270,000 people visited Times Square, Harris said. Broadway has already welcomed back more than a million visitors since fully reopening its doors to vaccinated patrons barely two months ago, he noted.
"International travelers are back. And we're happy to work with your team to safely welcome back revelers to Times Square on New Year's Eve," Harris said of ongoing cooperation with the de Blasio administration. "Our success is largely due to people being vaccinated and feeling confident they can safely return to our new normal."