1 mn revelers gather in NY's frigid Times Square on New Year's Eve

New year

Throngs of revelers in and around New York's Times Square bid farewell to 2012 and extended a raucous greeting to 2013 early Tuesday.

The crowd in midtown Manhattan, which police expected to approach 1 million, cheered and counted down the final seconds of 2012 as a large lighted crystal ball descended for the last minute of the old year - a tradition started in 1907. Thousands cheered as the new year officially began and a blizzard of colorful confetti fell on the famous square. But the cheers - and a spirited crowd rendition of the song "New York, New York" - were quickly drowned out by a fireworks show. Paul Hannemann, the head of an incident response team at the Texas Forest Service, was in New York to help with the reconstruction efforts in areas hit by Superstorm Sandy. Even as he spent his first New Year's Eve in Times Square, Hannemann's thoughts were on Washington, D.C., where lawmakers worked late into the night to reach a deal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that many economists fear could send the nation back into recession.

"I hope everybody can come together in 2013 so our country can get its finances in order and our economy back in place," Hannemann, 60, said.

In addition to the crowd on hand in Times Square, another billion people were expected to watch on television, city officials said. People filled pens in the center of Times Square hours before the end of 2012. Police set up barricades to keep away the overflow crowd. Once people entered the police pens, they were not allowed to leave, no alcohol was permitted and there were no restrooms.

At 6 p.m. the ball rose to the top to the top of its 70-foot (21-meter) pole and fireworks went off.

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