Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Officials Blast NPS Plan To Move Security Screenings To Ellis Island

With the Statue of Liberty scheduled to reopen on July 4, New York officials are pressing the parks department to reconsider new security procedures that they believe put the monument at "greater risk" for a terrorist attack, according to the Wall Street Journal. 

At issue is the point where visitors are screened for Statue of Liberty tours. The National Park Service has said it plans to move security screenings to Ellis Island, after visitors have taken ferry rides from New Jersey and Manhattan. Those wanting to visit the statue will undergo a second screening.

On Monday, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer called on the park service to revert to the procedure that was in place before the park had to be closed for repairs following superstorm Sandy: screening visitors at Battery Park and New Jersey before they board ferries.

That security strategy, which involved having visitors go through the same detectors used at airports, has been in place since after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"The NYPD and the National Park Service have differences when it comes to protecting visitors from a terrorist attack," Mr. Kelly said.

"I believe this change can cause serious problems and make those who travel there at greater risk than they are now," Mr. Schumer said.

A National Park Service spokesman, Mike Litterst, said via email: "The National Park Service provides security at national icons across America and has done so successfully for decades. Safety...will continue to be our number one priority."

The statue and Liberty and Ellis islands have been closed since Sandy battered the region in October. The statue, which sits elevated on Liberty Island, was left unscathed by the storm, which flooded the island and destroyed infrastructure.

Park officials said the Battery Park and New Jersey screening sites were always meant to be a temporary solution. The storm damage accelerated the construction of the Ellis Island screening facility.

Mr. Kelly said there is no immediate threat to the statue, but said there remains an overall threat to key monuments. "In our judgment the threat has not abated," he said.

Messrs. Kelly and Schumer said they have had discussions with the parks service, which they said so far has resisted their overtures. Both recently sent letters to Sally Jewell, the department's newly appointed secretary, in hopes she will reconsider.

If money is the issue, they said, the additional costs could be offset by a "nominal" increase in the price of tickets, which now run from $9 to $20.

"They have talked to both of us repeatedly," Mr. Schumer said. "Thus far, they have resisted. With a new commissioner, hopefully they will change their mind....Right now the park service is not showing that carefulness we need."

Read More:

Officials See Risk in Statue Security Plan
Parks Department Asked to Reconsider New Security Procedures
The Wall Street Journal - May 27, 2013 - By Pervaiz Shallwani

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