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Rutgers Behind the Ball

The New Year's Eve Ball sits atop One Times Square covered in 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles featuring this year's "Gift of Serenity" design. At 6 p.m. on Dec. 31, the 11,875-pound ball will be raised to the top of the 130-foot flagpole and at 11:59 p.m. begins its 60 second descent.  – Photo by Dimitri Rodriguez

NEW YORK, N.Y. — From sleepless nights at The State University of New Jersey to the city that doesn’t sleep, four Rutgers alumni work diligently on the biggest night of the year—New Year’s Eve in Times Square. 

Millions of eyes will be drawn toward the New Year’s Eve Ball sitting atop of One Times Square awaiting the 70-foot descent at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31. 

Working for the Times Square Alliance—a co-organizer of Times Square New Year’s Eve— Brian Hester, field operations supervisor, said he starts early, at 6 a.m. assigning sergeants and Public Safety Officers (PSOs). 

“On a normal day, there are no ‘normal’ days in Times Square, (I) assign sergeants to sweep (the) entire district to check on all homeless individuals within the confines of Times Square,” he said. “Our PSOs patrol, 24/7 year-round, to scan all areas for unattended and or suspicious packages. (We) work closely with NYPD and FDNY to assist with traffic control, both pedestrian and vehicular, at times of incidents.” 

His involvement on New Year’s Eve is not dissimilar to that of an average day with the exception of operating with an “all hands on deck mentality,” he said. 

“We assign sergeants, corporals, and officers to multiple posts throughout the district to assist the general public in getting into desired location and establishments within the district,” he said. “(We) assign coverage to assist with VIPs and foreign dignitaries requiring escorts through the area as they move between locations.” 

Trying to define the feeling of the bucket list item is indefinable said the former Rutgers—Newark economics major. 

“People should come out and see the ball drop in person at least once in their lifetime. It is a magical experience that is hard to describe in words,” Hester said. “It must be seen, no felt, in person, to be fully appreciated.”

With all the job entails, Hester said there is one thing that he finds most rewarding. 

“Finding lost children,” he said. 

Expectations are to be met with the heart of New York City attracting tourists from across world, said Debra Simon, director of public art. 

“To make every year even better,” she said.

While helping with sponsors on New Year’s Eve, Simon said people should come out on Dec. 31 to ring in the new year.  

“New Year’s Eve is a fantastic celebration and spectacle that must be experienced in person,” she said. 

Vice President of Events and Programming Gary Winkler said first impressions count in Times Square. 

“We like to think that you don’t get a second chance at making a first impression, so expectations are high every day of the year,” he said. “On the events side, we take it a step further with an eye towards changing perceptions about the neighborhood for those who may not appreciate Times Square as much as we think everyone should.”

The former environmental business and economics major said being in Times Square to ring in the new year is “truly magical.”

“Celebrating New Year’s Eve in Times Square is a true bucket list experience,” Winkler said. “To take that in with people from all over the world coming together as one with hopes and aspirations for the year ahead, there truly is nothing like it. The final half hour is truly magical, an epic experience that cannot be described in words.

Contrary to the majors Winkler was pursuing, he began chasing another career while in college—broadcast. Attending Cook College gave him flexibility to intern in fields that he expressed interest in. 

“I would encourage all students to intern as much as possible, go and experience the real world and find out what truly interests you and perhaps more importantly, find out if something doesn’t,” Winkler said. “This helped me hit the ground running when I left New Brunswick.”

Some students are faced with challenges, but they should “stay in school and keep pushing to earn your degrees,” Hester said who dropped out of high school. 

“A few years later I earned a GED and struggled to get into Rutgers…what would become a 10 year journey to earn my degree,” he said. "Life is much better with the Rutgers degree.” 


Editor's Note: The fourth Rutgers alumni Majorie Desir, manager of human resources, did not comment by time of publication. 

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