New York Daily News: MANHATTAN – Goodbye and good riddance, 2020.

The last indignity of the deadly pandemic year came in Times Square, where New Year’s Eve revelers were barred from watching the ball drop at midnight for the first time in 77 years after COVID-19 forced cancellation of the massive annual celebration in the Crossroads of the World.

The typically wild street party, dating to the ball’s debut in 1907, gave way to a ghost town with no crowd to count down the seconds before the calendar flipped into 2021.

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea offered a one-word description of the scene, with cops on empty streets steering stragglers away from the site of the canceled Midtown celebration: “Surreal.”

Jennifer Lopez performed a cover of Aerosmith’s ‘Dream On’ for a national television audience and a small group of essential workers as the year of coronavirus departed under cover of darkness and without the usual fanfare.

“It would have been great to ring in 2021 the New York way,” said disappointed Billy Merola, a Marine who came into Manhattan from Long Island only to be turned away.

The clampdown began around 3pm, with police keeping the area clear of revelers across the next nine hours. Guests at five Times Square hotels were also told to stay indoors, and security measures included bomb-sniffing dogs and drones.

The typical number of cops patrolling the area was trimmed  80 percent.

The cancellation marked the first missed ball drop since New Year’s Eve 1942 and 1943, when World War II caused the disruptions. The five boroughs lost more than 25,000 residents to the virus last year.

A few notables were still on site for the melancholy event: Mayor de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray turned out, as did 39 “Heroes of 2020″ invited for the efforts during the pandemic.

The guests, honored for their “courage, creativity and spirit” over the last nine months, ran the gamut from first responders to postal workers to teachers— and even a New Jersey pizza delivery guy.

“Goodbye 2020,” said de Blasio. “Here comes something better: 2021.”

  • Top Feature Photo: Confetti flies after the Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball drops in a nearly empty Times Square, early Friday, Jan 1, as the area normally packed with revelers remained closed off due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic – Craig Ruttle/AP