HUNDREDS OF thousands of New Yorkers will head for the huge party in Times Square on New Year's Eve, but Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is staying in - in his specially designed, bulletproof bunker.

Mr Giuliani, who prefers to call it an "emergency command centre", said that he and the city's police, fire and other commissioners would usher in the new year at the facility in the World Trade Center. "We're going to use it for the Y2K turnover of the city," he said. "Every commissioner will be working just in case there's a problem. We've spent $330m getting ready for Y2K, making sure that everything works. We've checked it out two or three times, but you never know."

Hunkering down in the bunker - said to have air filters for biological and chemical protection - does not mean he knows of any specific threats, terrorist or otherwise. "All of it concerns me," he said, but added: "I really think people should not allow themselves to get over-excited about this."

However - all being well - Mr Giuliani is planning to emerge just before midnight and make his way to Times Square.

Fiona Bell