72° Good Afternoon
72° Good Afternoon

Revelers enter 2019 in a rainy Times Square

Rain, and tight security can't stop hundreds of thousands from heading to Manhattan for the annual ritual of saying goodbye to the old year and welcoming the new one.

The rain didn't dampen spirits as revelers gathered

The rain didn't dampen spirits as revelers gathered in Times Square on New Year's Eve on Monday. Photo Credit: Todd Maisel

Revelers greeted 2019 like generations before them as Monday turned to Tuesday in a soggy but celebratory Times Square — they cheered, traded hugs, and watched a sphere bedazzled with crystal and lights slowly descend to the storied street below.

Thousands counted down in unison "5..4..3..2..1!"

Then colorful confetti — mixed with the pouring rain — fell and cheers and whoops went up. To make it complete, Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" blared down on the crowd. The NYPD reported few if any major problems.

It all seemed a perfect — a fitting end as visitors from across the metropolitan area, the country and the globe crowded into a secure area of Times Square for the once-a-year party. Earlier Monday, they waded past a phalanx of cops, braved pelting rain, and found no bathrooms once inside a penned-off section of Times Square. But despite the inconveniences, which included no umbrellas on a soggy, waterlogged New Year's Eve, many said it was the only place worth celebrating 2019.

With just a bit more than 60 minutes to go before bidding farewell to an old year, some of those among the throng paused to ponder their hopes for the new one.

Kaela Holmes, 16, said she was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2018. Along with her parents, Kaela traveled to Times Square from the family home in Melbourne, Florida, with a pledge "to live life creatively" in 2019. Dressed for the occasion in a pink ballerina dress and silver sequined top, Kaela had just met pop singer Robin Thicke, who stopped for a picture with her.

The NYPD gave the family special access near one of performance stages for Kaela, who uses a wheelchair.

Her father, Jim Holmes, said as the new year beckoned that his goal is "to be a better dad and husband and to beat that darn tumor and enjoy life more." Added Kaela's mother, Richelle Holmes: "And to do more to experience life."

That seemed to be the goal of the thousands wedged inside a secured blocks-long area surrounding Times Square throughout the day and well into the night. The rain rarely, if ever, let up but it didn't seem to matter.

Penned in on West 45th Street, Brooke Stone, 39, of Astoria, said she was in Times Square for her fourth-straight New Year’s Eve.

“I wanted to meet strangers and make friends. It makes me very happy,” she said, adding that her neighbors in the pen were from Spain and Ohio. “It’s really nice just to be among the strangers and since I don’t have my family here, I really, really like to open up my New Year's with the strangers in Times Square. This is my heart."

Considering last year's temperatures in the low teens, Stone said rain might dampen her clothes, but not her enthusiasm to celebrate a new year.

“Last year was freezing and I still stuck around,” she said. “Anything is better just to be in Times Square; it doesn’t matter. The people just make me so happy. The feeling is so right, just to open up the new year with them.”

Thousands of NYPD officers were keeping watch from the ground. A police drone had been tapped to keep watch from above, but officials grounded the device because of the rain. Also in place were bomb-sniffing dogs, 1,225 security cameras and 235 “blocker vehicles” used to stop any potential vehicle attacks.

Out with the cops on patrol, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill walked hatless through the rain and the sea of visitors wearing goofy hats at the place long referred to as "the crossroads of the world."

“Where else would I be?” said O’Neill, who surprised his newly sworn-in academy graduates as they worked their first detail. “They are looking great. This first day on the job will give them a real feel for the city and what it is like to be a New York City police officer.”

The commissioner said security is at optimum levels.

“We have the FBI, Secret Service, Homeland Security here, and they are not getting paid as of now,” he said referring to their commitment despite the partial shutdown of the federal government.

Event organizers estimate that by the stroke of midnight Monday, close to a million visitors will have packed into the fenced-off section of Times Square.

Earlier in the day, the NYPD began closing down access to Times Square starting at 38th Street and Broadway and moving north as revelers arrived. After about 3 p.m., vehicles were directed away from Broadway and Seventh Avenue, above 42nd Street and as far north as 59th Street. Event organizers had advised those wanting to be part of the massive street party to enter the secured area from Sixth or Eighth avenues.

Meanwhile, Times Square vendors, always quick to display an opportunistic streak, were hawking plastic ponchos for $10 apiece to ward off the rain.

Last year’s celebration was one of the coldest on record, at 10 degrees. This year, the temperature was forecast in the high 40s, but rain was expected to linger into the first few hours of 2019.

Heather Boddy, 29, of Harlem said she was done with resolutions but still has big plans for 2019.

“You should work on yourself all year and not just at the beginning of the year," Boddy said. "But what I’m looking forward to is a better relationship with my finances: actually budgeting and paying more attention to how much money I spend, and making more money and not being afraid to make money.”

Karen Moody, 48, formerly of Baldwin but now living in Houston, had her mind on more immediate concerns, like getting dry. She was sardined with thousand of others inside the secure area but was having second thoughts about her plans for midnight..

She said the warmth of her hotel room with a dry view of the festivities will do just fine.

“I didn’t expect this. We just went to get some food. I just want to get back to my room,” she said as she handed her hotel reservation papers to police officers.

Moody said she booked her hotel room almost a year in advance.

“This was definitely on my bucket list, but I didn’t want to do this on the street, where it was going to get messy.”

Moody grew up watching the ball drop every New Year’s Eve on television.

“When I was in college, I was there on the street. I won’t do that again,” she said, laughing while contemplating the Champagne that was chilling back in her room.

When asked if he regretted his decision to come to Times Square, East Elmhurst resident John Fernandez, 21, said, "A little bit, but it is what it is."

“People call me crazy because I’m here,” he said. “Everyone is so negative about the atmosphere, being here. You gotta say … just do it.”


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

News photos & videos