Senator Charles Schumer today urged the National Park Service (NPS) to reverse its decision to enact a new security plan that will leave visitors to the Statue of Liberty more vulnerable to an attack from those wishing to do us harm. Under the former security procedures, all passengers were screened before getting on the ferries to Ellis and Liberty Islands. The new procedure moves the screening facilities to the islands themselves, so no one is screened before getting on the boats. This leaves them more open to a potential devastating attack, for example from someone could bring explosives on the ferry, and cause catastrophic damage in the middle of New York harbor.
Schumer was joined by New York Police Department Commissioner Ray W. Kelly. The NYPD opposes this change and has also urged the NPS to reverse their decision.
“This change leaves the millions of Americans who visit this national treasure every year more open to attack,” said Schumer. “The Statue of Liberty is a national symbol and a natural target for those who wish to do us harm, and we shouldn’t be making it easier for them. I know the NPS cares deeply about the monument and its visitors, but in this case I think they’ve made a mistake and should rethink this policy change.”
“The NYPD and the Park Service have differences over how to best protect visitors from a potential terrorist attack,” said Kelly. “I’ve written to secretary of interior Jewel and asked that she have the park service reconsider its decision to eliminate screening at the Battery.”
The Statue of Liberty, which was seriously damaged by Superstorm Sandy, is scheduled to reopen on July 4th. Previously, NPS officials would conduct security screenings at stations in Battery Park and Liberty State Park for passengers before boarding the ferries.
Despite objection from the NYPD, NPS plans to go ahead with a new security screening procedure that would scrap the security stations at Battery Park and Ellis Island and instead conduct security screenings at Ellis Island and at the base of the Statue of Liberty. NPS says that they have decided to move the screening to NPS-owned land.
Schumer today urged NPS to go back to the original security screening procedure before Superstorm Sandy. Schumer made the case that if there is no security station for individuals before they board the ferry, it could put passengers at risk because no one would know whether or not a passenger has boarded the ferry with explosives or other implements of destruction. Schumer explained that the Statue of Liberty is a high-profile landmark, making it a top New York City target for terrorists and passengers must be screened before they set sail.
A full copy of the letter is below:
Jonathan B. Jarvis
National Park Service
Dear Director Jarvis,
I write to urge the National Park Service (NPS) to reexamine its security screening policy for the Statue of Liberty. Current plans to move the screening facility from Battery Park to Ellis Island leaves the millions of visitors each year making the journey over to this national treasure more vulnerable to an attack. I ask that NPS reestablish security screening for visitors prior to boarding ferries over to the site.
I commend NPS for its diligent work around the region following Superstorm Sandy and its commitment to reopen the Monument July 4th. It is evident that NPS cares deeply about this national treasure and its visitors, however I strongly urge NPS to reexamine it’s security procedure and reestablish a pre-boarding screening at Battery Park. As one of our nation’s most visited tourist destinations, with an estimated four million visitors a year, it is particularly import that the unique threats to this site are taken into consideration for every step of this journey.
Again, I applaud NPS for its quick cleanup and repair efforts following the storm in an effort to reopen the monument, which will serve as both a symbol of resiliency for our region and the nation following this devastating event. I look forward to working with NPS to ensure that not only the monument is reopened for the fourth of July, but also that we are providing the highest level of security to our visitors every step of the way. Thank you for your attention to this important request.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator