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Habitat among those honored in Times Square

Disaster relief heroes Habitat for Humanity, Wynton Marsalis and New York City uniformed officers special guests for New Year’s Eve in Times square

Will join New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in pushing the button to lower the ball and welcome in 2006

Times Square Alliance and Countdown Entertainment join mayor in announcing special guest

New York, N.Y. (Dec. 29, 2005) – New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg will pay tribute to the civil servants, volunteers and charitable organizations who have been crucial in the recovery and rebuilding of the Gulf Coast and other areas during the natural disasters in 2005 when he shares the stage on New Year’s Eve in Times Square with Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International, New Orleans native and famed jazz artist Wynton Marsalis, and four New York City uniformed officials, representing the New York City Fire Department, the New York City Department of Correction, the New York City Police Department and the New York City Office of Emergency Management, whose departments traveled to the Gulf Coast to provide assistance. Together they will push the button to signal the lowering of the New Year’s Eve Ball and lead the final 60-second countdown to 2006 seen around the world by nearly one billion television viewers.

The selections were announced today by Mayor Bloomberg along with Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, and Jeffrey Straus, president of Countdown Entertainment, co-organizers ofTimes Square 2006.

In 2005, Habitat for Humanity dedicated its 200,000th home worldwide since the organization was founded, housing an estimated one million people around the world. Twenty-four minutes later, Habitat dedicated its 200,001st home built worldwide in India, representing its march forward to end poverty housing. In 2005, the organization built a total of 25,271 homes throughout the United States and in nearly 100 countries around the world in partnership with families in need. It assisted an estimated 6,000 households affected by the tsunami in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand and completed or began construction on more than 60 houses in partnership with low-income families affected by hurricanes Rita and Katrina along the Gulf Coast through its “Operation Home Delivery” program.

As artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, New Orleans-native Marsalis organized one of the first all-star benefits to raise funds for Hurricane Katrina relief.  The “Higher Ground Hurricane Relief Benefit Concert,” held Sept. 17, was produced by Jazz at Lincoln Center.  The concert, hosted by Laurence Fishburne, featured Marsalis, Elvis Costello, Bill Cosby, Robert De Niro, Bette Midler, Paul Simon, Meryl Streep, and James Taylor, among others, was televised live nationally on “Live From Lincoln Center” on PBS and on XM Satellite Radio. It was recorded for Blue Note Records, with all proceeds going to disaster relief.  The concert, auction, CD sales and subsequent donations to Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Higher Ground Hurricane Relief Fund have raised close to $3 million.

Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu appointed Marsalis chair of his cultural redevelopment committee, guiding the plans to rebuild Louisiana’s tourism and cultural economies.  In addition, the mayor of New Orleans named Marsalis co-chair of the cultural committee for the “Bring New Orleans Back” Commission, created to develop a plan to repair and rebuild the cultural fabric of New Orleans.

The New York City uniformed services participants attending the New Year’s Eve event are: Assistant Chief Michael Weinlein, fire department; Deputy Warden Emmanuel Bailey, correction department; Assistant Chief James Hall, police department; and Virginia Mewborn, emergency management.

Weinlein represents the New York City Fire Department (FDNY). Weinlein, 48, is a 25-year veteran of the FDNY and serves as the assistant chief of operations out of FDNY Headquarters in downtown Brooklyn.

During the first two weeks of relief operations for Hurricane Katrina, Weinlein acted as incident commander for the FDNY Incident Management Team (IMT), which was tasked with command, logistics, operations and planning functions for the New Orleans Fire Department (NOFD). He was a critical part of the leadership structure that supported the NOFD and supplemented firefighting and emergency responses throughout the city. Overall, the FDNY sent more than 650 firefighters and fire officers to the Gulf Coast region. In addition, the FDNY provided firefighting apparatus, including former Engine 283 – “The Spirit of Louisiana,” which was donated to the FDNY after Sept. 11, 2001.

Bailey represents the New York City Department of Correction (DOC). Bailey, 49, is a 20-year veteran of DOC and serves as deputy warden for security at the Anna M. Kross Center on Rikers Island.

During relief operations for Hurricane Katrina, Bailey served as the commanding officer for the first wave of 65 correction officers sent to provide assistance to the Louisiana State Department of Corrections. He served 29 days in Louisiana. Overall, DOC sent 130 uniformed officers for 46 days, assigned to seven different detention facilities in the affected areas to provide perimeter patrol and inmate transport and processing. DOC also sent cots, clothing and canned goods.

Hall represents the New York City Police Department (NYPD). Hall, 45, is a 24-year veteran of the NYPD and serves as commanding officer of the NYPD Transit Bureau in downtown Brooklyn.

During relief operations for Hurricane Katrina, Hall served as commanding officer of the NYPD contingent sent to provide police support to New Orleans. Overall, the NYPD sent more than 300 police officers to engage in regular police patrols, rescue work and delivery of emergency food and water supplies in New Orleans and the neighboring Jefferson Parish.

Mewborn represents the New York City Office of Emergency Management. Mewborn, 40, is director of training and exercises at OEM assigned to its headquarters in Brooklyn.

Mewborn was the emergency manager in charge of directing New York City’s Disaster Assistance Relief Center in Manhattan. For more than 2,500 victims displaced by Hurricane Katrina, this center served as a one-stop resource for housing, health care, employment and various other needs. For more than three months, she coordinated and managed more than 1,400 OEM staff and volunteers.

“These individuals – from the NYPD, FDNY, OEM and Correction – represent the best of New York City. When the call for help extended beyond our city, they were among the first to respond,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Through the great work of organizations like Habitat for Humanity and through the leadership of individuals like Wynton Marsalis, families devastated by Hurricane Katrina are receiving the additional support and aid they so desperately need. On New Year’s Eve, we will honor not only the work of hundreds of police officers, firefighters, corrections officers and emergency managers, but everyday New Yorkers who responded in the aftermath of Katrina.”

“Habitat for Humanity has had an extraordinary year thanks to the many volunteers and partners who have joined us in providing hope to families in need,” said Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International. “I am honored to be a part of this Times Square tradition and to represent the larger goal of building decent houses in communities around the world.”

“I am humbled by the courage and strength of my fellow citizens in the Gulf Coast through the recent devastation,” said Marsalis. “And I am grateful to Mayor Bloomberg for giving me the opportunity to show that in this season of renewal, the people of the Gulf region will rebuild and rejoice once again.”

“New Year’s Eve is a time of celebration, but also a time to reflect on the meaningful events of the last year,” said Tompkins. “Part of what we are celebrating tonight is the spirit of selfless generosity embodied by our honorees, which is helping to renew and rebuild both places and people that have been struck by tragedy.”

“It’s time to celebrate not only the New Year but also the thousands of individuals whose altruistic efforts eased the hardships of hundreds of thousands,” said Straus. “Like so many others, our special guests generously rushed in to help others in their time of need.”

The tradition of honoring outstanding individuals on New Year’s Eve was launched in 1996/97 when 88-year-old Oseola McCarty – a laundress who donated her life savings of $150,000 to the University of Southern Mississippi – was invited to participate in the Times Square festivities. Since then, such notables as former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Muhammad Ali, Christopher Reeve, Nobel Peace Prize-winner Doctors Without Borders, and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Guiliani have been honored as special guests.

In addition to the selection of the special guests, the organizers of New Year’s Eve in Times Square announced the program for this year’s festivities. This year’s event will be bigger than ever, with world-class entertainment and its broadest global outreach.

Among the highlights are:
– Three stages of live entertainment.
– 10 live artists.
– Lighting and raising of the ball at 6 p.m., followed by a fireworks salute.
– Hourly countdowns beginning at 7 p.m. led by a series of celebrity guests.
– Musical soundtrack throughout the evening beginning at 6:15 p.m. to entertain the onsite revelers.
– Three live performances on the Pontiac Garage stage throughout the evening, including Puddle of Mud, P.O.D. and OK Go.
The Troggs, who will perform their 1960s classic, “Wild Thing,” on ESPN’s New Year’s Eve Special at approximately 10:30 p.m.
Mary J. Blige, who will perform on NBC’s “Carson Daly’s New Year’s Eve Special” at approximately 11:35 p.m.
Mariah Carey, who will perform on ABC’s “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve 2006” at approximately 11:40 p.m.
– The Panasonic Sing-Along, led by Regis Philbin, singing three songs with revelers with lyrics displayed on the giant Panasonic screens in Times Square at approximately 11:05 p.m.
Nick Cannon, who will perform on “Fox’s New Year’s Eve Special” at approximately 11:25 p.m.
Univision Television Network’s premiere of the song written for its FIFA World Cup 2006 broadcast coverage, “¡Arriba, Arriba!,” (Higher, Higher) performed by top Latin recording artists, Ana Bárbara, Pablo Montero, Mariana Seoane and Anaís, at approximately 11:50 p.m.
MSN simulcast, with 26 cameras in four different streams in real time, hosted by Z100 DJ Romeo, from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.
– A musical tribute to our armed forces by the USO Troupe of Metropolitan New York.
– Close to 200,000 handouts to onsite revelers, including pompons, balloons, hats, ear warmers, gloves, eyeglasses, necklaces, confetti bags and Metrocards.
– The 101-year-old New Year’s Eve Ball-lowering tradition.
– The world famous New Year’s Eve confetti released from rooftops throughout Times Square at midnight.
– A two-minute display of Grucci fireworks at midnight.

Organizers and sponsors
The Times Square Alliance and Countdown Entertainment are the organizers of Times Square 2006.
– The Times Square Alliance works to improve and promote Times Square so that it retains the energy, edge and distinctiveness that have made it an icon of entertainment, culture and urban life.
– Countdown Entertainment, which represents the owners of One Times Square, and the New Year’s Eve Ball, is a marketing management and consulting services company specializing in the Times Square area.
– Chevrolet is the Worldwide Presenting Sponsor of New Year’s Eve in Times Square, including Times Square 2006.
– Other Worldwide Sponsors are Coca-Cola, Korbel Champagne, MSN, Panasonic, and Waterford Crystal.

For more information about New Year’s Eve in Times Square, plus a host of information about Times Square’s restaurants, hotels, special events, what’s new, and other key facts, visit the Times Square Web site, located at www.timesquareNYC.org.

About Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis has been described as the most outstanding jazz artist and composer of his generation. He has helped propel jazz to the forefront of American culture through his brilliant performances, recordings, broadcasts, and compositions as well as through his leadership as the artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC). Marsalis is the music director of the world-renowned Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, which spends more than half the year on tour. He also hosts the popular Jazz for Young People concerts and helped lead the effort to construct JALC’s new home, Frederick P. Rose Hall, the first education, performance, and broadcast facility devoted to jazz, which opened in October 2004.

Marsalis was born in New Orleans in 1961. He began his classical training on the trumpet at age 12 and entered the Juilliard School at age 17. That same year, he joined Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, the acclaimed band in which generations of emerging jazz artists honed their craft, and subsequently made his recording debut as a leader in 1982. Since then, he has made more than 40 jazz and classical recordings, earning nine Grammy Awards. In 1983, he became the first and only artist to win classical and jazz Grammys in the same year and repeated this feat in 1984. His rich body of compositions includes the oratorio, “Blood on the Fields,” for which he was awarded the first-ever Pulitzer Prize in music for jazz composition.

Marsalis is an internationally respected teacher and spokesperson for music education and has received honorary doctorates from dozens of universities and colleges throughout the United States. Britain’s senior conservatoire, the Royal Academy of Music, granted Marsalis honorary membership, the academy’s highest decoration for a non-British citizen. In France, the Ministry of Culture awarded him the most prestigious decoration for the French Republic, the rank of Knight in the Order of Arts and Literature. He also was appointed as a United Nations Messenger of Peace by the secretary general of the United Nations in 1991.

A resident of New York City, Mr. Marsalis is the father of three boys, ages 17, 15, and 9.

About Habitat for Humanity International
Habitat for Humanity International, based in Americus, Ga., is an ecumenical Christian ministry that welcomes to its work all people dedicated to the cause of eliminating poverty housing. Since 1976, Habitat has built more than 200,000 houses in nearly 100 countries, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for more than one million people. For more information, visit www.habitat.org.

About Habitat for Humanity’s work
– Habitat for Humanity works with community groups and volunteers to build or renovate simple, decent homes. Habitat relies on donations of labor, building materials and land to help keep the cost of the houses down.
– Habitat for Humanity selects homeowners based on their need for adequate housing, their ability to repay a no-interest, no-profit mortgage and their willingness to partner by helping to build their own home and the homes of others in the program. Homeowner monthly mortgage payments go into a revolving fund that is used to build even more homes in partnership with other families in need.