New Year’s Eve on Times Square was frigid – and also felt like a military encampment. NYPD was out in force in the wake of recent terrorist attacks in the city. All things considered, the evening seems to have gone off very well.
I was down in the area in the early afternoon. Friends from out of town wanted to have brunch at their usual spot, the Lamb’s Club on 44th, which is basically at Times Square.
NYPD had set up a perimeter around Times Square starting at 6th Avenue on the East, and had blocked off all cross streets, including to pedestrians. (Cars appeared to be banned even east of 6th). Since the Lamb’s Club was between 6th and 7th, we needed to get past the security perimeter.
The scene at ever cross street was basically chaos as people tried to get through the barricades for various reasons. Some were allowed, others turned away. We walked up and said we were heading to the Lamb’s Club and they let us through no problem. Another group of those meeting us were let through, but with a police escort to the restaurant. The third group was denied access for at least 20 minutes. They finally were able to convince someone to let them through, after producing an email on one of their phones with the words “Lamb’s Club” in it.
Shame on me for not making us pick another spot, but once we got through we were able to enjoy having the restaurant essentially to ourselves.
Leaving, we intended to take the D train from Rock Center. The subway entrances on the west side of 6th Ave. were closed. We had a stroller and went up to 49th where there’s an elevator. Obviously some people were being allowed to use it since I believe I saw it moving. However, the police told us that we couldn’t use it. What’s more, they told us the entire subway station was closed. That seemed strange since how else would people get to the festivities?
We took a chance and crossed over to the other side, where the station was indeed open. Luckily we could simply pull the car seat out of the stroller and walk down the stairs. But a person in a wheelchair might have faced a bigger problem.
From what I saw, it was very clear NYPD did not have their ducks in a row operationally, at least in the afternoon. There were no clear instructions on who to let through and why, business access, etc. They needlessly blocked all the subway entrances on the west side of 6th. And at least the officer I talked to was giving out bad information. Looking around at the crowd on the street, it was pretty much mass confusion. The officers were professional in their behavior, but clearly needed better operational prep. This was below standard for New York events in my experience.
I tweeted NYPD about the elevator access and they said they’d investigate, so hopefully that go straightened out at least.
If this is the new normal for NYE security, the city should spend more time on procedures and training for their perimeter staff. And daytime business and subway access should be better.