Before Times Square’s shimmering Waterford crystal-covered ball even begins its descent, an army of 246 city sanitation workers are ready and waiting.
New York’s Strongest are tasked with a seemingly impossible feat: making sure every piece of confetti and other New Year’s Eve flotsam is gone by daybreak.
“Cigarette butts, party hats, favors, you name it,” said DSNY Chief Paul Visconti, a 30-year department veteran who oversees cleaning operations. “It’s not easy because you also have the challenges of weather.”
Aside from working in freezing cold temperatures, precipitation can make it even tougher to remove paper-thin confetti.
That’s why the agency approaches the cleanup with a variety of tools: 30 mechanical brooms, 58 backpack blowers, 44 basket/litter trucks and even 58 old-fashioned hand brooms.
“You will see a night and day difference in eight hours,” Visconti said. “It’s something short of a miracle what we get accomplished.”
Sanitation workers will be in Times Square through New Year’s Day. Visconti said it takes 12 to 16 hours to get the area back to its pre-ball drop self.
But planning for this Herculean effort starts months in advance.
The agency reviews operations from the previous year to see if anything can be tweaked and improved.
“We are always looking to do a better job each year,” Visconti said.
About 24 hours before the big celebration, sanitation crews remove 70 litter baskets in the Times Square area — a safety precaution requested by the NYPD.
Then, all equipment and many of the workers have to be in place before police shut down the streets to traffic and begin cordoning off the crowd.
Two DSNY deputy chiefs and 46 officers are also on head during the post-countdown cleanup.
“Watching Times Square on New Year’s on TV is incomparable to actually being there,” he said. “There’s just electricity in the air.”
Once the ball drops, crews get to work — even as the crowd is being dispersed.
“We go into action, cleaning every nook and cranny,” Visconti said. “This is not just the middle of the block but the feeder blocks too.”
Last year, workers removed nearly 50 tons of debris.
“It’s rewarding to see 50 tons of debris disappear,” he said. “It’s not easy but we make it look easy.”