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What's Your Line? Everyday WNYers with offbeat occupations He gets the drop on the new year

Jeff Biniewski, 35, of South Buffalo, chief building engineer of the Iskalo Development Corp.'s Electric Tower, has one little final job tonight to start off everybody's new year. Biniewski stands on the outdoor balcony and hits the switch that drops the glittering ball from the tower of the landmark building.

Do people who know you know that you drop the ball?

People who know me do know, but I think a lot of them don't believe it.

Had you ever seen the ball drop before you were the guy doing it?

I've never been downtown for New Year's Eve until last year. Iskalo bought the building about a year and a half ago, and that's when they hired me. At first, we weren't sure if they were going to drop the ball at all, but then it all just fell into place. Things went off very well last year -- we were timed right to New York City. We have guys down in the crowd counting down, but really we go by the people, because you can hear them. You can hear everything from up here, even though it's 15 stories up.

What's the best part of dropping the ball?

Last year, my wife, Marcella, and our kids -- Rebecca, 15; Emily, 12; Jack, 9; and Matthew, 4 -- came down. They were standing next to the Goldome Bank and I would poke my head over and I could hear them shouting, "Yay, Dad!" I was like a rock star! I'd turn my flashlight on so they could see me, and even with all the people down there, I could hear my kids yelling.

How many people are in your crew?

There are two of us at the top, two guys running the power cable out the window on the fifth floor that powers the lights on the ball, and a couple of guys out in the crowd for the timing. They watch the clock on the stage, and we all communicate with each other. There are also a few guys who volunteer, guys from Niagara Mohawk, who still wanted to be involved in it even after they sold the building. They come down to be part of it, still, so that's kind of nice.

Is this the best way you've ever rung in the new year?

Yes, this is sort of like a big deal for me and my family.

You probably prefer to be known as Father Time, rather than "the ball-dropper."

Yeah, there's some jokes there, for sure. Last year, we were all sitting around having breakfast the next morning, and my wife and kids were teasing me -- they tease me about everything -- so I said, "What are you giving me a hard time for? If it wasn't for me, it'd still be 2004! I'd screw up everybody's taxes and everything!"

e-mail: aneville@buffnews.com

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