Watch Live: New Year’s Eve in Times Square

Ten! Nine! Eight! Seven! Six! Five! Four! Three! Two! One!

If you aren’t reveling in Times Square this chilly evening, watch a live broadcast of the celebration here. Anderson Cooper will provide hourly countdowns and musical guests Miley Cyrus, Macklemore, Blondie, Melissa Etheridge and others will be twerking and twirling until the confetti rains down at midnight.

At 11:59 p.m., Justice Sonia Sotomayor will be the first United States Supreme Court judge to press the button that will lower the 12-foot-wide, 11,875-pound geodesic sphere covered in 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles.

Inside the ball, more than 30,000 LEDs will be lit by the New York City power grid with a little help from visitors to Times Square. Over three days, 2,194 riders mounted stationery Citi Bikes connected to 12-volt, deep-cycle batteries, which generated 1,967 watts, or enough energy to keep the LEDs glowing for about three minutes.

If you are planning to enter the fray in Times Square, take note of the entry points and that there will not be access to public restrooms. You can also download the free Times Square Ball app to stay up to the second.

Happy New Year everybody!

Monitoring Elections Could Kill You. Well, Sort Of.

Maybe it’s true, after all. There really was a lot of deadwood at the city’s much-maligned Board of Elections. Or perhaps all that pressure massaging the balky new electronic machines was too much. Or the thousands of openings for $200-a-day election inspectors on Election Days just happen to attract a high number of older retirees.

Whatever the reason, a disproportionately large number of election workers have died in the last two years, at least compared with other municipal employees. (The Board of Elections was the subject of a 70-page report issued on Monday by the city’s Department of Investigation that highlighted deficiencies, including cases of nepotism, and recommended improvements in training and hiring, among other steps.)

In recent weeks, the City Record, the official municipal journal, has added an unusual category – deceased — to its daily list of personnel changes, which typically details appointments, resignations and promotions.

Historically, political bosses have been accused of casting phantom ballots by “voting the cemetery.” There are fewer known cases of zombie election inspectors, though.

A board spokeswoman, Valerie Vazquez, insists that all the inspectors listed in the City Record as deceased were, indeed, once alive and that none got paid for poll watching after he or she died.

What happened, she said, was that in 2010, the Internal Revenue Service determined that per diem employees – such as Election Day inspectors — could not be considered independent contractors. So more than 60,000 names, or about two years’ worth of inspectors, were fed into the city’s Automated Personnel System computers. When their names were finally matched with their Social Security numbers, it turned out that 843 had died, she said.

“They weren’t on the payroll; they were only paid if they worked on Election Day,” Ms. Vazquez said. “It wasn’t a question of their being deceased and still getting paid.”

A New Year’s Tradition’s Last Ear-Splitting Blast

Conrad Milster, the chief engineer at Pratt Institute, in an engine room on campus in May.Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times Conrad Milster, the chief engineer at Pratt Institute, in an engine room on campus in May.

A longstanding Brooklyn tradition might end tonight with a blast – literally.

Since 1965, Conrad Milster, the chief engineer at Pratt Institute in Fort Greene, has blown in the new year with his private collection of steam whistles. But the loud whistles marking the start of 2014 might be the last to be heard.

Pratt does not sponsor the event; the campus is closed for winter break, and most if not all students have deserted it. Yet as the night wanes each Dec. 31, hundreds of local residents and whistle aficionados have gathered in the institute’s art-filled quad to hear just after midnight the clarion calls of bygone days: a ship entering the harbor or a train leaving the station.

Mr. Milster, 77, attaches a dozen whistles to a pipe outside the school’s power plant. When he pulls a cord, steam pours through a whistle’s opening, creating its own distinctive tone. Stand close enough and you’ll be enveloped in a hot cloud so thick you can’t see a thing. You’ll want to cover your ears, too, as even the smallest whistle can be heard for miles.

The steam whistle from the S.S. Normandie.Keith Williams for The New York Times The steam whistle from the S.S. Normandie.

Included in Mr. Milster’s collection is his first whistle, a five-tone device he bought from the Lackawanna Railroad after high school.

“When I bought the Lackawanna whistle, I thought, ‘I’d like to hear what it sounds like, so when can I blow it?’” he said. “People are making a lot of noise on New Year’s Eve.”

The Pratt tradition harks back to Mr. Milster’s childhood and to New York history. Growing up in Astoria, he loved hearing the whistling each New Year’s Eve from the waterfront factories, now long gone.

Perhaps his most famous whistle comes from the S.S. Normandie, a record-holding trans-Atlantic ocean liner from the 1930s. Those present for this potential final performance might not get to hear it, though. Mr. Milster has been ill with the flu, and even with the assistance of two other Pratt engineers, he is unsure whether he will be able to raise the 600-pound apparatus onto its three-foot-high mantle.

“As I’ve gotten older,” he said, “the pipes and the whistles have gotten heavier.”

He guaranteed, however, the presence of his homemade calliope, a fixed-volume relic of circuses and carousels. The instrument is similar to a pipe organ but uses steam instead of compressed air. “I did that for 2000,” he said. “I wanted something special, because that was the big one.”

His favorite whistle is from the S.S. Lansdowne, a railroad ferry that served the Detroit River from 1884 to 1956. It’s a sentimental tribute to his late wife. “That’s always the first one we blow on New Year’s Eve,” he said, “because Phyllis grew up on the Great Lakes.”

Now a top-ranked design school, Pratt was founded in 1887 to train engineers. Its power plant includes the two-level Engine Room, one of the last reminders of the school’s original focus. Although officials closed that program in 1993, the chamber’s bottom floor remains a steampunk fantasyland, with a host of dials, clocks and gauges framing three Ames steam engines from 1900 still functional thanks to Mr. Milster’s care.

Pratt officials, who are discontinuing the whistle-blowing practice over safety and insurance concerns, said Mr. Milster will have the option to blow them one last time, in 2015. As of now, though, he seems content for this to be the end.

“I do love doing this — it’s always been fun,” he said. “But I’ve done it so many years that the keen edge is sort of gone.”

The Real Man Behind the Fancy Frames

Dear Diary,

During a recent trip to the city, I stopped by a stylish eyewear store in SoHo to buy sunglasses. I left with a pair of black wire frames.

“Just the frames?” the clerk said before running my credit card.

I lied: “I’ll order the prescription lenses later.”

I didn’t need lenses. My eyes were close to 20/20. I only wanted the glasses.

To my surprise, the neighborhood’s elegance and youth had aroused my vanity. A sudden need to fit in overtook me, a desire to appear cooler, artier and more culturally influential than I am. I wanted the world to see how I felt: bookish, cerebral, literary, well read. Instead, I walked around that day viewing Manhattan through clear plastic lenses and feeling ridiculous.

I’m a bald 38-year-old who works retail and hasn’t had health insurance since 2006. Reading numerous books and magazines made me bookish. Writing made me literary. Wearing cosmetic frames made me a fraud. Even if a few subway commuters shot me interested glances as if falling for my hoax, I knew the truth.

The day before my flight home, I returned the frames. It was one of the more tawdry things I’ve done, but it was liberating. Exercise, regular haircuts, tailored clothes, a healthy diet — looking good matters. But if I couldn’t take myself seriously, my appearance seemed pointless.

My artifice wasn’t New York’s fault, it was my own. But the city helped me see the value of authenticity more clearly than any prescription glasses could.

Read all recent entries and our updated submissions guidelines. Reach us via email or follow @NYTMetro on Twitter using the hashtag #MetDiary.

New York Today: What We’ll Miss About Bloomberg

The mayor on Monday at his last bill signing ceremony.Damon Winter/The New York Times The mayor on Monday at his last bill signing ceremony.

Good morning on this nippy Tuesday. It’s not only the last day of the year, but also the end of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s tenure.

Mr. Bloomberg will walk out of City Hall for the final time as mayor at 4:45 p.m., surrounded by his staff.

As a political reporter for The Times, I’ve covered Mr. Bloomberg’s policies and politics for the last five years.

I have also delved into his golf game, his wealth and his dining habits. (Ours, suffice it to say, is a love-hate relationship.)

What will we miss about Mr. Bloomberg? Here’s my list:

- His promiscuous approach to political party affiliation.

- Well-intentioned but mangled Spanish (and the ingenious Miguel Bloombito Twitter account it spawned)

- Utter indifference to polls: who else would champion a mosque at Ground Zero?

- The superfluous and ungrammatical “s” that he tacks on to a dozen different words. (“Elsewheres,” “anyways.”)

- His big “idears.”

- The mysterious mayoral weekend whereabouts.

- The impossibly preppy wardrobe. (Those salmon sweaters!)

- His relentlessly tin ear. (“Wouldn’t it be great if we could get all the Russian billionaires to move here?” Etc.)

- The C.E.O. swagger.

- The money. Because the new mayor, for all his charms, doesn’t have all that much.

What will you miss about Mr. Bloomberg? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter, using #nytoday.

Here’s what else you need to know for Tuesday.


Clouds and a snowflake or two, with a high of 34.

Chilly as the year fades: around 27 at midnight.

Similar weather on New Year’s Day.

And brace yourself for a “significant amount of snow” on Thursday.


Subways: Check latest status.

Rails: Check L.I.R.R., Metro-North or New Jersey Transit status.

Roads: Check traffic map or radio report on the 1s or the 8s.

Beware of street closings around Times Square starting at about 3 p.m.

Alternate-side parking is in effect today, but suspended tomorrow.


From Kate Taylor of the City Hall bureau of The Times:

- At 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Bill de Blasio will become New York’s 109th mayor.

- But first, he may have more appointments to make. He is holding a news conference today at 1 p.m.

- Mr. de Blasio will be sworn in by Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman just after midnight in an “intimate ceremony” at his home in Park Slope. Translation: No press or public allowed.

- But the proceedings will be live-streamed on and photos will be posted to the Mayor’s Office Flickr page.

- The official inauguration is at noon on Wednesday at City Hall.

- Mr. de Blasio will be sworn in by former President Bill Clinton. Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose 2000 Senate campaign Mr. de Blasio managed, will also attend.

- The 1,000 free tickets for the public were quickly snatched up, but some are being sold on Craigslist.

- The ceremony will be live-streamed on, and shown on most local TV stations.


The Ball Drop

- At 6 p.m. tonight, the Times Square ball, a geodesic sphere 12 feet across, will be raised up a 77-foot flagpole at Broadway and 43rd Street.

- Below the ball, Miley Cyrus, Macklemore, Blondie and many others will perform.

- At 11:59, Justice Sonia Sotomayor will push a button and the ball will make its 60-second descent.

- If you want to attend, get to Times Square before the streets close in the afternoon. Or file in at these access points.

- You can also watch a live webcast or download a free app.

- You may not drink alcohol, which might help with the public bathrooms problem — there are none.


- A four-mile midnight run in Central Park, with a fireworks display for a starter’s pistol. [Free to watch, $65 to run]

- More fireworks, in Prospect Park near Grand Army Plaza. Party starts at 11 p.m. Also, a 5-K run in the park begins at 11:15 p.m. [Free to watch, $40 to run]

- The Concert for Peace at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. 7 p.m. [Limited free tickets, otherwise $30]

- The blowing of the steam whistles at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. IT IS LOUD. 11:59 p.m.

- On New Year’s Day, the annual poetry marathon at St. Mark’s Church in the East Village features more than 140 poets. 2 p.m. [Some $20 tickets available at the door]

- For more events, see The New York Times Arts & Entertainment guide.


- Nearly a quarter million New Yorkers have signed up for the state health insurance exchange. [New York Times]

- Investigators posing as dead voters were allowed to cast ballots on Election Day. [New York Post]

- Mr. de Blasio vowed to move quickly to outlaw horse carriages, saying, “They are not humane, they are not appropriate for the year 2014. It’s over.” [Daily News]

- Plans by Mr. de Blasio and his schools chancellor to de-emphasize standardized testing may be harder to pull off. [New York Times]

- Assemblyman Micah Kellner of the Upper East Side was stripped of leadership positions for sexually harassing staff members. He can’t have interns anymore, either. [New York Times]

- The city sued FedEx, saying it illegally delivered more than 50,000 cartons of untaxed cigarettes to residents even though it had agreed to stop doing so in 2006. [Reuters]

- Mayor Bloomberg’s official portrait was unveiled at City Hall. [New York Times]

Andy Newman, Annie Correal and Joseph Burgess contributed reporting.

New York Today is a morning roundup that stays live from 6 a.m. till late morning.

What would you like to see here to start your day? Post a comment, email us at or reach us via Twitter using #NYToday.

Find us on weekdays at

Portrait of a Mayor

One of These Mayors Will Never Leave Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg hung his official mayoral portrait, painted by the artist Jon R. Friedman, in City Hall on Monday.Damon Winter/The New York Times One of These Mayors Will Never Leave Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg hung his official mayoral portrait, painted by the artist Jon R. Friedman, in City Hall on Monday.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg made one more permanent alteration to City Hall on Monday: hanging his official mayoral portrait.

The painting, by the artist Jon R. Friedman, features Mr. Bloomberg standing in front of the bullpen, his beloved open-format office on the second floor of City Hall. Similar to a Wall Street trading floor, the bullpen is a format he imported from Bloomberg L.P., his company.

Elements of Mr. Bloomberg’s life dot the background of the painting. His daughters, Emma and Georgina, can be seen in a photo on his desk in the bullpen, just to the left of Bloomberg’s left hand.

His tie is purple — the color of his political affiliation — Independent and bipartisan, the color in the middle.

There are Bloomberg computer terminals all over the room.

At the back of the room is a giant TV with a 311 system update on screen — of calls made so far that day (121).

New York Today: Murder Hits Record Low

Robert Stolarik for The New York Times

William J. Bratton begins his second stint as police commissioner with the city considerably safer than it was even a year ago.

New York is set to finish 2013 with a 20 percent drop in murders. Most other crimes are falling, too.

There were 332 murders through Dec. 29. In 2012, there were 419.

The number has fallen below the threshold of one per day for the first time since reliable recordkeeping began in 1963.

The city’s murder rate was 75 percent higher back then.

The drop in New York appears to be part of a broader trend in the nation’s biggest cities. Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia all had big declines in murder.

In New York, rapes and robberies (both down 5 percent so far) and burglaries (down 10 percent) are falling, too.

But serious assaults and non-violent thefts have ticked up, by 3 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

The rise in thefts, a pattern that goes back several years, is attributed largely to stolen smartphones and other personal electronics.

The overall drop in crime comes as stop-and-frisk encounters are down 60 percent through September of this year.

This could bolster the plans of Mr. Bratton and his boss, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, to rein in stop-and-frisk further.

Proponents of the stop-and-frisk policy point out, though, that the number of guns seized during stop-and-frisk encounters has fallen, too. Overall gun seizures are down 11 percent this year.

Here’s what else you need to know for Monday.


A winter sun fails to warm. Temperatures fall through the day as a cold front moves in like an unwanted holiday guest and stays all week.

By lunchtime it will be about 36 degrees. Tonight, down to 20.


Subways: Check latest status.

Rails: Check L.I.R.R., Metro-North or New Jersey Transit status.

Roads: Check traffic map or radio report on the 1s or the 8s.

Alternate-side parking is in effect today and tomorrow but not Wednesday.


From Javier C. Hernández of The Times:

- At last, white smoke: Mr. de Blasio picks Carmen Fariña, a former city education official, as his schools chancellor. He announces the appointment at his children’s old middle school in Park Slope at 11:30 a.m.

- Zachary W. Carter, who prosecuted the police officers in the Abner Louima case, will be the city’s chief lawyer.

- In an interview in Teen Vogue, Mr. de Blasio’s 19-year-old daughter, Chiara, says she likes heavy metal music and doesn’t use social media much.

- Governor Cuomo is trying to block Melissa Mark-Viverito, Mr. de Blasio’s favored candidate, from becoming City Council speaker. [New York Post]

- Bill Clinton will swear Mr. de Blasio in as mayor on Wednesday.


- Farewell, trusty pen: Mayor Bloomberg signs his last bills, 22 in all. They include one restricting foam containers and e-cigarettes and another requiring the mayor to submit an annual poverty report.

- Time for your Christmas tree to decorate the curb: municipal tree collection begins.

- If you want to see a national lighthouse museum on Staten Island, better donate today: it’s the deadline for organizers to raise $350,000.

- Videology, a video store in Williamsburg, screens the year’s best DVDs all day, starting at noon. [Free]

- A historic tour of Central Park shows how it was designed and built. Noon outside the park’s Dairy Gift Shop. [$15]

- Crank up the wood chipper and watch “Fargo” at Huckleberry Bar in Williamsburg. 9 p.m [Free]

- For more events, see The New York Times Arts & Entertainment guide.


- Mayor Bloomberg shelled out $650 million during his tenure, including $263 million to civic, health and cultural groups in the city. [New York Times]

- A choosy mugger in Central Park handed back his victim’s three-year-old flip phone. [New York Post]

- Jets beat Dolphins, 20-7, so Rex Ryan gets to keep his job. Giants beat Redskins, 20-6. Rangers beat Lightning, 4-3. Islanders beat Wild, 5-4.

Joseph Burgess contributed reporting.

New York Today is a morning roundup that stays live from 6 a.m. till late morning.

What would you like to see here to start your day? Post a comment, email us at or reach us via Twitter using #NYToday.

Find us on weekdays at

Contemplating Life in the Bathtub

Victor Kerlow

Dear Diary:

I’m in the bathtub again. I’m not in the bathtub that often, but, when I am, it becomes an event.

I take more time preparing for the bath than I do submerged in water, for goodness sake. I usually bring a beer I won’t drink, a book I won’t read and a phone I won’t touch. All my plans go out the window as I catch myself millions of miles away in outer space with a beard made of suds.

I like opening the window and hearing the sounds of Chinatown downstairs. What a racket. Everybody’s selling something or too busy honking their cars into a wreck to even consider selling something. But there I am, grinning like a dope in my bathtub.

I always watch movies where people are in their tubs with half their bodies submerged. I think it’s a way to show off their anxiety. I don’t know; I make do with my sudsy beard and untouched book. Oh, porcelain chamber, you know me too well. I’m comforted and dismayed all at once as you wash off the grime of the day from my skin.

I’m happy for cleanliness, though remorseful of the memories lost. What if I wanted that old book smell on my hands from that place uptown? I try sticking my head under water, I really do, but my ears get all foggy and I forget where I am. Oh yeah, three floors above Grand Street where people like me have been feeling contemplative for, what, hundreds of years? Maybe there wasn’t much to think about back then. Maybe there was.

This is Mr. Glass, submerged in the bathtub, a bag of tea in boiling water. Drink up my anxiety; I’m only steeping.

Read all recent entries and our updated submissions guidelines. Reach us via email or follow @NYTMetro on Twitter using the hashtag #MetDiary.

Monk Parrots Find Freedom

Johann Schumacher

Staring at a parrot flying through the biting cold of Queens, it is easy to imagine its escape from the warmth of someone’s home, and just as easy to picture its brief future. But looks can be deceiving.

The monk or Quaker parrot (Myiopsitta monachus) has made a home in New York City for four or five decades now. Tropical green, with blue wing tips, monk parrots measure about 12 inches from beak to tail. They are natives of central and southern Argentina, where steamy summers are common and snowy winters have prepared them well for life in the five boroughs.

In New York City, the monk parrot has generated volumes of urban mythology. It is one of many animals reputed to have colonized the Northeast through broken shipping crates and other misadventures at Kennedy Airport, but its current presence in Belgium, Britain, Israel, Spain, Chicago, Cincinnati, Rhode Island, Wisconsin and of course New York City implies a less romantic explanation. Monk parrots were popular pets in the 1970s, easily trained and cooperative. So a global pandemic of smashed shipping crates is less likely than occasional releases — intentional and not. Though there may have been occasional shipping mishaps, pet owners are probably at least as responsible for this parrot’s spread.

Interestingly, monks are by no means the first colorful parrot to have graced North America’s skies. A New Yorker in the early 19th century would not have had to travel far to see Carolina parakeets (Conuropsis carolinensis), the only truly native parrot in North America. Now largely forgotten, these beautiful yellow-headed, red-cheeked birds were once regularly sighted throughout southern New York State.

The bird’s interest in our crops, and the millinery trade’s interest in its feathers, conspired against it. By the late 1800s the Carolina parakeet was rare, and like its better known contemporary, the passenger pigeon, it was extinct by the early years of the 20th century. All that remains of the bird today are one of John James Audubon’s most haunting engravings and some study skins.

Monk parrots have steadily extended their range into a Northeast devoid of the Carolina parakeet. They are the only parrots known to construct twig nests, and aside from the unmistakable sounds of parrot screeching, these sometimes huge structures are often the best indicator of the birds’ presence in a community.

They can be seen all across the city: In the Bronx they can be observed in Pelham Bay; in Manhattan, on the Upper West Side and occasionally in Central Park. They can also be found in eastern Queens in Howard Beach, throughout Staten Island, and most points in between.

One of the most compelling places to observe these birds is in Brooklyn. They can be seen on telephone poles in Gravesend, Marine Park and Midwood, often dangerously incorporating transformer boxes as nests’ central heating units. Greenwood Cemetery hosts one of the largest colonies in the city. The interwoven mass of twigs and birds turns the cemetery’s gothic main gate into a living sculpture. At 25th Street and Fifth Avenue, it houses dozens of parrots in all seasons.

A Fellow Lover of Smoked-Fish Ends

Dear Diary:

I was crouched in Fairway, squinting at smoked salmon ends, when I sensed someone behind me. I assumed another shopper was waiting to get through the smoked fish, dry salami, won-ton wrapper area, but when I stood and gestured for the white-haired man to pass, he said, “I’m waiting to do just what you’re doing.”

I’ve never met someone else who scrutinizes the bits of nova and gravlax that remain, sold in plastic containers, after the gorgeous pink slices are sheared off.

“What do you look for?” I asked, staring. (I scan for some ineffable quality of juiciness; properly chosen, it’s better than the full-price stuff, but today’s selection was only so-so.)

“I’m not sure,” he said, thoughtfully. The lines on his face suggested he had looked at lox for decades. “That one looks good to me — juicy.”

“To me, too.” We smiled.

“Have it,” I said, handing it to him.

“Many supermarkets sell these -” he began.

“ – but it’s best here,” we said, almost simultaneously.

As I shopped, I thought of questions I didn’t ask this stranger who also inspects the appetizing section: Did he enjoy it when bits of sable or sturgeon appeared? Did he agree that it was worse when the pieces were chopped small? Did he eat it straight from the container?

He reappeared, behind me, at checkout. He said, “Not such a good selection today.” I agreed, and looked, with curiosity, at what else he was buying. But the remainder of his cart was unfamiliar.

Read all recent entries and our updated submissions guidelines. Reach us via email or follow @NYTMetro on Twitter using the hashtag #MetDiary.