Saturday, May 1, 2010

Police Evacuate Part of Times Square -

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Crowds of tourists and theatergoers were cleared from Times Square as the police investigated a “suspicious vehicle” there on Saturday evening.

Officials were investigating a sport utility vehicle parked at 45th Street and Seventh Avenue that was emitting smoke. A bomb squad was sent to the scene.

Broadway was closed between at least 43rd and 46th Streets, and the police also appeared to be closing off part of Eighth Avenue.

Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, told Reuters that a vehicle had been left in Times Square and that a small fire was extinguished.

“We’re just trying to determine if it was anything other than a car fire,” Mr. Browne said. “We don’t know yet if it’s anything more than that.”

Onlookers crowded against the metal barricades encircling the area, taking pictures with cellphones and video cameras, although only a swarm of flashing fire trucks and police cars was visible.

Many people stayed to watch after being shut out of Broadway shows or prevented from getting back to their hotels, trading rumors about what was happening.

The Toys “R” Us, between 44th and 45th Streets, was empty.

Gabrielle Zecha and Taj Heniser, visiting from Seattle, had tickets to see “Next to Normal” at the Booth Theater on 45th Street but could not get into the 8 p.m. show because the area was blocked off. But they made the best of the spectacle. “It’s a whole different kind of show,” Ms. Heniser said, adding, “It’s almost the equivalent of a $150 show.”

In December, the police closed Times Square for nearly two hours as they investigated a suspiciously parked van, delaying the rehearsal of the New Year’s ball drop. However, the van turned out to contain nothing but clothing.