Times Square isn’t known for its subtlety, so it’s no surprise that even an illuminated sign gets a red carpet welcome.
On Tuesday, the producers of the Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration unveiled the number “one” that will be part of the brightly-lit 2011 sign hanging over 42nd street and Broadway. The seven-foot number was carried out of a limo and down a red carpet, accompanied by mid-level celebrities such as Gossip Girl’s Penn Badgley, and into the newly refurbished Times Square Visitor Center.
“It may be shining white, but this is a green Number 1,” said Tim Tomkins, of the Times Square Alliance. For the first time, the New Year’s sign will be lit by light-emitting diode (L.E.D.) floodlights. The bulbs, only recently available to consumers, last about 25 times longer than conventional incandescent bulbs and consume less energy. The producers’ other “green” initiative is a pair of stationary bikes located in the visitor’s center, which tourists have been pedaling throughout December to charge giant batteries. The batteries will be used to power the sign on New Year's, courtesy of the battery manufacturing giant Duracell.
The fancy new L.E.D. lights can last up to 30,000 hours, but that longevity might be wasted on the sign. Duracell spokesman Kurt Iverson says his company hopes that the pedal-power carries them through midnight, when the ball drops. “That’s kind of our goal, is to do it for at least 30 minutes,” he said. “To store enough energy throughout December so that we have enough to get us through the telecast and light up all four of the numbers.”
The sign will be hoisted up to the top of One Times Square in the next few days. According to Landmark Signs, the company that makes the giant numbers in a Bronx workshop, this is the last number they’ll have to make for a little while. “We still have the “two” from 2002, so we’re good for 2012,” said company president Tony Calvano.