New security plans for the Statue of Liberty could leave visitors vulnerable when it reopens July Fourth, New York officials said Monday.
Sen. Charles Schumer and New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly called for the National Park Service to reverse its plan, which calls for visitors to board boats either lower Manhattan or New Jersey and stop at nearby Ellis Island for security.
“The NYPD and the Park Service have differences over how to best protect visitors from a potential terrorist attack,” said Kelly, adding that he has written to the secretary of the interior about the issue.
“I know the NPS cares deeply about the monument and its visitors,” said Schumer, “but in this case I think they’ve made a mistake and should rethink this policy change.”
Park service representatives did not immediately respond to comment requests.
The statue was closed after Superstorm Sandy. Storm surges flooded Liberty Island, destroying boilers and electrical systems, but the statue, which is on higher ground on the island, remained intact.
Previously, passengers were screened with airport-style metal detectors before they boarded boats for Liberty Island from Battery Park in Lower Manhattan and Liberty State Park in New Jersey.
“This screening was put in just after the horrific events of Sept. 11. And I can tell you, in our judgment, the threat has not abated,” Kelly said.
Terrorist groups, he added, “have an interest in targeting locations that represent America.”
Both officials said any additional costs could be covered with a small increase in the fee charged to visit the island. They also advocated scheduled ticketing to help reduce lines.
The Ellis Island Immigration Museum, which suffered severe damage to its infrastructure during the storm, will remain closed for repairs, except for the proposed screening area.
Schumer praised the park service for its “quick cleanup and repair efforts” on Liberty Island after the storm, but said that “it is particularly important that the unique threats to this site are taken into consideration for every step of this journey.”
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Photo credit: The Statue of Liberty as seen from a cruise tour. Sue Waters / Flickr