The year might really have gone out with a bang.
In an appalling security breach, NYPD officers failed to notice a sinister-looking van illegally parked in plain sight for two days in the heart of Times Square -- where hundreds of thousands will gather for New Year's Eve festivities tonight -- red-faced authorities admitted yesterday.
It was only after workers at 7 Times Square spotted the vehicle, which was in a no-parking zone with no license plates, plastic bags over the tinted windows and a bogus police placard in the windshield, that the bomb squad evacuated buildings, cordoned off streets and pored over the van.
BLIND SPOT: Cops pore over the Broadway van, which agents failed to ticket even though it had no license plates and its windows were covered.
After sending a remote-controlled robot into the white 1997 Dodge Ram, authorities determined it contained only knockoff Burberry scarves and a couple of folding tables used by Midtown vendors. But it had enough room to carry hundreds of pounds of explosives.
That such a suspicious vehicle could sit unnoticed for so long, days after the thwarted Christmas terrorist attack on a Detroit-bound plane, sent a chill down the spines of even the most hardened New Yorkers.
"It's crazy -- to me, that's nuts," said Ahmed Adam, 27, a financial analyst from Gramercy Park. "Somebody didn't do their job. It's very disappointing and it could have been a disaster."
Law-enforcement officials acknowledged the van had sat on Broadway between 41st and 42nd streets -- just a block from the NYPD's Times Square command post -- since around noon on Monday and had not moved.
"There's no question we should've known about it earlier," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said today.
Cops are conducting an investigation to try to figure out why it wasn't discovered earlier, he added.
The vehicle had no plates, a temporary New Jersey registration that had been tampered with, and a parking placard that read, "Detective's Crime Clinic, Metropolitan New Jersey and New York" in the window. No such agency exists.
Finally, at around 11 a.m. yesterday, authorities responded after a maintenance worker at 7 Times Square alerted building security.
"I first noticed it on Monday but I didn't think anything of it. I thought it was a regular delivery truck," said John Vaillant, the maintenance supervisor for the building. "One of my workers came up to me today and said, 'John, this vehicle looks suspicious.' I saw that all the windows were covered up with thick plastic bags."
Vaillant said he had spotted numerous traffic agents walking by in the past two days. But even though the van sat in a no-parking zone, it was never ticketed.
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