NEW YORK (AP) — Costumed revelers celebrated Halloween in a jittery New York on Wednesday with the city’s police department out in force as precaution a year after the holiday was marred by a deadly truck attack.
Thousands of uniformed and plainclothes officers were on hand for the city’s big Halloween parade in Greenwich Village, a crowded, jubilant affair in which both marchers and spectators come in costume. This year they were joined by counterterrorism and crowd control units, rooftop observers, police dogs and helicopters.
“What happened last year was terrible and will hopefully never happen again. There is definitely more security this year, but it’s necessary so that nothing like that ever happens again,” said a Spider-Man costumed Michael Crozier, 26, of Queens. “People might complain but it’s worth it, to save a life.”
The parade was packed tight with people hoping to get a glimpse of the marchers. Police officers lined every street and congregated on corners, directing traffic and keeping people moving.
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Laura Mangiano said she comes every year to the parade. The 50-year-old Brooklyn native, who was not in costume as she stood behind barricades with her 23-year-old daughter dressed as a cat, complained that security was “too tight.”
“All these barricades are confining. The parade used to be more open. I liked it better like that,” Mangiano said.
Police Commissioner James O’Neill said police wanted to ensure that New Yorkers can celebrate “in an atmosphere of community, peace and fun, and certainly not fear.”
The city was just starting to gear up for its evening Halloween celebrations last year when a man driving a pickup truck mowed down pedestrians and cyclists on a busy bike path along the Hudson River, not far from the parade route, killing eight people and seriously injuring 11 others.
Among the dead were five Argentinian friends vacationing in New York, a Belgian tourist, a New Jersey man who worked at the World Trade Center and one New Yorker, a software engineer.
The truck’s driver, Sayfullo Saipov, was shot by police after crashing into a school bus and is awaiting trial on terrorism charges. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Earlier on Wednesday, city officials took heat for botching a ceremony meant to honor the victims. Officials closed the ceremony without reading the names of the eight dead. A police officer scrambled to the podium as the small crowd was dispersing, and Mayor Bill de Blasio raced up to apologize and read the names.
De Blasio attended the ceremony alongside emergency responders, a small group of family members and friends and the consuls general of Argentina and Belgium.
A wreath of white roses was placed at the site of the attack and a minute-long moment of silence was observed.
Wednesday’s Halloween parade is the city’s first large-scale public event since the back-to-back trauma last week of the discovery of a series of package bombs, mailed to prominent Democratic officials and CNN’s Manhattan offices, and a gunman’s slaughter of 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday.
In recent days, police have responded to false alarms involving suspicious packages and unattended bags, including scares outside Radio City Music Hall, at The New York Times and at the Time Warner Center, home to CNN’s New York offices.
Last year’s Halloween parade went on as scheduled after the attack, with marchers lining up just a few blocks from the bike path, but with increased security, including sand-filled trucks parked as protective barriers along the route to stop any speeding vehicles.
Over the past year, the miles-long Hudson River bike path that was the scene of the attack has been outfitted with temporary concrete barriers and permanent steel posts to block vehicles.
Associated Press writer Sabrina Caserta contributed to this report
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