Archives of the Mayor's Press Office

Date: Friday, November 20, 1998

Release #535-98

Contact: Colleen Roche/Jennifer Chait (212) 788-2958


Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Wilbur L. Chapman and First Deputy Police Commissioner Patrick Kelleher today announced safety measures aimed at ensuring public safety at the Macy's Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The Mayor appointed a Task Force to review operations at the Mayor's Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade after last year's tragic accident when a portion of a lamppost was severed by a balloon, seriously injuring a spectator along the parade route.

"The Macy's Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade is a unique and exciting New York City tradition," Mayor Giuliani said. "With the cooperation of Macy's, the Task Force I appointed examined all aspects of the Parade to ensure that an accident like that which occurred last year is prevented and that all parade activity is conducted safely. With the implementation of these new measures, the Parade can continue to safely bring fun and amusement to the millions of spectators that come to the parade each year."

The new safety measures for this year's parade include:

1. Construction Design Approved by DOT: The construction design and intended method of operation and handling of each large parade balloon have been approved by the Department of Transportation.

2. Size Restrictions: No balloon with dimensions that exceed 78 feet in length, 40 feet in width or 70 feet in height will be operated in the parade.

3. Wind Limitations: No large balloon will be operated when there are sustained wind conditions exceeding 23 mph or wind gusts exceeding 34 mph.

4. Weather Conditions: The National Weather Service will be consulted the night before and morning of the parade to provide wind and weather projections, and a licensed meteorologist will be stationed at the parade starting line. In addition, an assistant pilot travelling with each large balloon will be equipped with a hand-held wind meter to provide wind readings at intersections, where the effect of crosswinds on balloon operation is greatest. Windsocks will also be placed at various intersections along the parade route. As balloons and balloon handlers cross each intersection during the parade, they will be specifically positioned in response to the given wind conditions at the time.

5. Balloons Tethered to Vehicles: All large balloons will be tethered to two support vehicles weighing 1,379 pounds each. One such vehicle will be used to guide the balloon while the other will serve as an anchor.

6. In Cases of Emergency: All large balloons will have zippers or rip panels that can be used to safely deflate balloons and/or portions thereof on the parade route.

7. Balloon Handlers: All large balloons will have approximately 50-60 handlers. The training of these handlers has been significantly enhanced from prior years. Each balloon will be led by a captain, two assistant captains, a pilot and two assistant pilots, all of whom will have had extensive experience in the flying of large balloons. A police official will also accompany each balloon along the parade route. In addition, Macy's will utilize over 250 trained students from technical colleges or universities, and all handlers will be required to complete a physical profile form from the New York Sports Club to confirm their physical qualification to handle large balloons.

8. Street Furniture: Prior to the parade, all lampposts north of Columbus Circle and south of 81st Street on Central Park West will be replaced with new poles having arms that extend parallel and not perpendicular to the street. For this year's parade, the arms of those lampposts north of 34th street, and south of Columbus Circle will be temporarily removed for the duration of the parade.

9. Police Will Determine Public Safety: The Police Department will have the authority to make all final determinations with respect to public safety at the parade.

Transportation Commissioner Wilbur L. Chapman said, "Safety is the chief concern when staging any organized event. Through combined efforts of the Police Department, DOT and Macy's, we have instituted measures to insure that the Parade is a safe and festive event."

First Deputy Police Commissioner Patrick Kelleher said, "I am confident that efforts undertaken in relation to this year's Parade will make it better than ever. The Police Department has worked closely with Macy's executives and other city agencies to ensure that public safety is not jeopardized. We have participated in training exercises with balloon handlers and will be prepared to implement contingency plans, if necessary."

Jean McFaddin, Producer and Director of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, said, "Macy's is pleased to have cooperated with the Task Force by drawing on its 71 years of parade experience as part of its ongoing actions of continually improving this fun, family tradition. The enthusiastic response to this year's planning by the balloon handlers and marching units will bring New York City and people everywhere the best Parade ever."

The annual parade runs along Central Park West and continues south on Broadway to 34th Street. Giant character balloons have been part of the excitement since their introduction in 1927.

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