Engineering the Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball

New York City Mayor Ed Koch gives the thumbs up sign as he flips a switch to test the Big Apple Ball, Thursday, Dec. 24, 1981 in New York. The mayor was helping to test the red and green lighted apple which will descend on Times Square this New Year?s Eve. The tradition of the ball was established in 1907. (AP Photo/Lederhandler)

Every December 31, millions of people around the world gather to observe the passing of the year and to celebrate the beginning of the next. Amid the various festivities across the globe, one of the most iconic displays is the Times Square Ball drop in New York City.

This particular celebration culminates with a countdown and a ceremonious lowering of a lighted sphere, elegantly descending from its suspended position above large crowds gathered below. Although it sounds rather simple, the tradition of dropping the ball has gone through great changes over the years.

The first New Year’s Eve ball was created in 1907. It was made of iron and wood, contained 100 25W light bulbs, and weighed 700 pounds. That first ball drop was organized by Alfred Ochs, then-owner of the New York Times, and it took place on the roof of the newspaper’s headquarters at One Times Square.

Over the years, the design was refined. The second ball, which was introduced in 1920, was constructed of iron and weighed only 400 pounds. The third iteration, constructed in 1955, was made of aluminum and weighed 150 pounds.

In 1981, the ball took the form of an apple, complete with a stem – perfect symbolism for the city otherwise known as the Big Apple.

Throughout the years, the ball has continued its evolution. By 2008, the ball featured energy-efficient bulbs.

Today, the ball is covered in 32,256 LED lights and 2,688 Waterford Crystal panels, capable of displaying more than 16 million colors and billions of patterns. It measures at over 12 feet in diameter, weighs 12,000 pounds, and is lowered by a mechanical winch.

If you are planning to spend New Year’s Eve night at home, why not turn on your TV and watch the ball drop from the comfort of your couch? You’ll probably be one of the few people who know a little of the history behind the tradition and the evolution of the ball over the years.

No matter how you choose to celebrate, stay safe.

Happy New Year!


Snow Removal Tips

With winter on the horizon, it’s time to prepare for everyone’s favorite holiday activity: shoveling snow. Rather than soldiering on through blizzards with a shovel and a bad back, why not make the job easier with a few easy tips?

Before the snow falls, take some preemptive action. Clear your yard of anything that you don’t want to get destroyed by snow (or even snow removal), such as hoses, decorations, or dog tie-outs. Stake out garden beds or any portions of your yard that contain elements that cannot be brought inside or stored in a shed, preventing accidental snow build-up when it comes time to shovel and dump snow. A little home surveying goes a long way!

If you know snow is imminent and want to lessen how much clearing you’ll have to do, consider buying a few waterproof tarps. These can be placed over sidewalks, walkways, and even cars to help protect their surfaces and decrease post-snowfall clearing. Remember to weigh the tarps down with stones or bricks, or to tie them down if being used to cover your car. After the snow has fallen, remove the tarp to reveal a clean walkway or car underneath. It may require a little shoveling to lighten the tarp’s load, but it still provides a protective barrier nonetheless.

If your shovel tosses are getting lighter because snow keeps sticking, consider using a lubricant. WD-40, petroleum jelly, and even some cooking spray can help prevent snow from sticking to your shovel, allowing for more successful scoops. Family Handyman recommends wiping down your tools before storing them to prevent rust build-up and to increase each tool’s longevity.

Rather than using a standard, straight-handled shovel or a snow-blower reliant on gas, consider upgrading to something more ergonomically- and ecologically-friendly. There are a variety to choose from, such as Garant’s sleigh shovels designed to scoop and push while lessening the strain on your back, or even the Snow Bully which uses a set of wheels to act as a small snow plow. If you’re not ready to let go of the snow shovel that has been passed down through your family for generations, consider getting an attachment for it that will still help lessen the strain on your back, such as an eziMate, which creates an additional point of leverage with a detachable handle.

If you pinched a nerve and it’s flurrying outside, break out the leaf blower to take care of some light dustings. Additionally, a wet/dry vacuum such as a Shop-Vac can be turned into a makeshift snowblower by attaching the hose to the exhaust, pointing, and blowing the snow away.

While enjoying a well-deserved rest inside, be sure to keep an eye on the snowfall. Although it may seem irritating to continuously trudge outdoors to shovel, it’s easier to move light, fluffy snow every few hours than having to somehow lift packed blocks of ice out of your driveway.


Design-Build Contract D800002: Cashless Tolling, Statewide, NY

This Design-Build project involves the design and construction of cashless tolling on the New York State Thruway ticketed system from approximately Thruway Exits 16 to 61 (MP 45.00 to MP 496.00), which will save travel time, reduce traffic, and minimize greenhouse gas emissions, benefitting the approximately 267 million vehicles that travel the Thruway each year.

The work varies on a site-by-site basis. Work generally consists of the strategic and cost effective placement of gantries, the removal of toll plazas, the reduction (in most locations) of the infrastructure footprint, positive separation of opposing traffic, signing, striping, design and construction modifications of super elevations to accommodate higher speeds through the gantry and modified toll plaza areas, landscaping, electronic work, communication buildings, tandem lot access modifications or closures or relocations, drainage work, pavement work, coordination with and/or preservation of existing utilities, asbestos and hazardous material abatement, and/or solutions to provide safe ingress and egress to and from the Thruway System.

The Cashless Tolling Constructors, LLC team, of which Stantec Consulting Services Inc and KC Engineering and Land Surveying, P.C. are Lead Designer, was selected as Best Value Team for this project. KC leads the structural engineering team, with work including providing design for four different types of gantries; generators / mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP); and communication buildings, including tie-in points to existing power and fiber sources, adequate parking space, and safe access for maintenance personnel.

KC also performs quality management, surveying, and civil and utility engineering services.

The cashless tolling system went live in November 2020, more than a month ahead of schedule, with toll booth removals, asbestos and hazardous material abatement, and final construction work to occur in 2021.