By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated December 31, 2001 01:18 PM

For Treb Heining, 2002 will actually begin at 20 seconds to midnight Monday night. That’s when he’ll give the signal to his 60 “confetti dispersal engineers” to unleash some 4,000 pounds of red, white and blue itty-bitty bits of paper upon the cheering throngs from various strategic points high above New York’s Times Square. “We’ve tried firing it from canons in the past,” Heining, 47, told in Times Square the Sunday before New Year’s Eve, “but after 20 or 30 feet, the winds take over, so people hurling the confetti works best.” The Southern California native knows his stuff: His confetti showers have been accompanying the famed dropping of the ball in Times Square for the last 10 years, ever since the formerly seedy centerpiece of Manhattan underwent a total clean-up under soon-to-be-former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Heining built his razzmatazz reputation by producing balloon spectaculars at such events as Super Bowl halftime shows, Democratic and Republican political conventions and cruise ship launchings. “I’m in the ‘Guinness Book’ (of World Records) three times,” he said, “for the most number of balloons unleashed at a single time.” One such record was set at Disneyland’s 30th birthday, when more than 1.5 million of Heining’s hot-air babies made their way to the stratosphere. (Coincidentally, Heining got his start in show biz as a teen selling balloons at the California park.) As for “dispersal engineers” who will be on duty this New Year’s Eve, Heining said that usually they are each paid for their services, “but this year I told them that all the money is being given to the (World Trade Center) relief fund. And there wasn’t a single argument about that from anybody.”