2 million in Times Square for New Year's? Experts say no way


NEW YORK (AP) — Ryan Seacrest and Anderson Cooper will be there. Snoop Dogg, too.

But 1 or 2 million people in New York's Times Square for New Year's Eve? As Snoop would say, you must be sippin' on gin and juice.

Crowd-size experts scoff at those mammoth figures – floated annually by city officials and event organizers – saying it's impossible to squeeze that many of even the skinniest revelers into such a relatively small space.

The real Times Square ball drop crowd likely has fewer than 100,000 people, crowd science professor G. Keith Still said.

"Generally, people are overestimating crowd sizes by ten- to a hundredfold," said Still, who teaches crowd science at Manchester Metropolitan University in England and trains police departments on techniques to calculate crowd sizes.

The crowd estimates come from the New York City Police Department, according to the Times Square Alliance, which runs the ball drop.

In recent years, the department estimated that 2 million people had packed into Times Square. Mayor Bill de Blasio used a big number again Friday, saying the city expected "up to 2 million people in Times Square itself," a bow-tie-shaped zone running five blocks between Broadway and 7th Avenue.

New York University professor Charles Seife, a mathematician and journalist who explored statistical manipulation in his book "Proofiness," said the city has an interest in promoting a bigger number because it "helps cement the image of New York City as the center of the universe at a certain date and time."

He suggested fuzzy math and fuzzier geography were also at play.

"How do you count a participant in the Times Square ball drop?" Seife asked. "Is it everyone who can see the ball, or anyone squeezed into a bar in Manhattan?"

To actually fit 1 million revelers, the city would have to jam more than the equivalent of a sold-out Yankee Stadium on every block of 7th Avenue between Times Square and Central Park – which starts about 15 blocks to the north.

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.