December 31, 2018 / 1:20 PM / 23 days ago

New York's Times Square ready for New Year's close-up

NEW YORK, Dec 31 (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of revelers will jam into New York’s Times Square on Monday to await the midnight descent of the glowing crystal ball that has marked the arrival of the new year in the famed Manhattan crossroads for more than century.

Christina Aguilera, New Kids on the Block and Sting are among the musical performers who will entertain throngs filling the streets ahead of the ball drop, the focal point of New Year’s Eve celebrations across the United States.

This year, the Times Square Alliance, which promotes local businesses and organizes the event, has chosen to honor press freedom after a year in which media has come under attack around the world.

The nonprofit has designated the Committee to Protect Journalists as this year’s official charity honoree, and several journalists will join New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to push the button 60 seconds before midnight, initiating the ball drop.

The tradition of watching a giant ball drop from a pole on top of the narrow building at the crossroads of Broadway, Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street in Midtown Manhattan began in 1907.

The current ball, in use since 2008, is a glittering, LED-studded sphere made by Waterford Crystal and Philips Lighting. Weighing 11,875 pounds (5,386 kg) and measuring 12 feet (3.7 meters) in diameter, it sits year-round on the roof of One Times Square, the one-time headquarters of the New York Times at the head of the blocks-long plaza.

Revelers will have hours to contemplate the passage of time. By 7 a.m. (1200 GMT) police had already lined Seventh Avenue with barricades, assembling the temporary corrals where revelers will be confined for the festivities. Organizers are encouraging to people to show up early, meaning that many will have been standing for hours before the ball drops. The National Weather Service is forecasting a low of 45 Fahrenheit (7 Celsius) and heavy rain.

Umbrellas are banned amid tight security, police say, reflecting concern over the possibility of random attacks.

The New York Police Department will screen people entering the corrals, deploy sharpshooters on rooftops and use radiation detectors throughout the event. It will also use an aerial drone for the first time to monitor the crowds. Manhole covers will be sealed up lest anyone is tempted to use the sewers to sidestep security.

Soon after midnight, sanitation workers will begin clearing away more than a ton of confetti. (Reporting by Jonathan Allen, additional reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Scott Malone and Steve Orlofsky)

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