NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Plans to change the security screening procedures for visitors to the Statue of Liberty have been scrapped.
In a statement announced late Monday afternoon. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that the federal government will not go forward with plans to screen visitors once they arrive at Liberty and Ellis islands. The feds will instead screen them in Battery Park before they board the ferry. The Statue of Liberty reopens July 4.
The statue was closed after Hurricane Sandy flooded Liberty Island in late October. Before then, passengers were screened before they boarded boats at Battery Park in Lower Manhattan and Liberty State Park in New Jersey.
As CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis reported, the decision to scrap the new security plan ends a political back-and-forth about securing the Statue of Liberty.
“It just made no sense to give people a security search once they got to Liberty Island,” Schumer said.
Tourists and locals alike agreed that screening tourists in Manhattan and Jersey City was a better idea.
“Why bring them over there and screen them?” said Gary Mastrodonato of Atlanta. “You should do it up front.”
“It just seems like a waste of time to go over there and get denied, so why not just do it right on the jump-off, no?” said Melissa Valenzuela of Battery Park.
“Sounds [like] common sense,” said Stephen Rivoli of Chelsea. “I’m with it.”
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell released a statement on the change: “I believe that establishing a temporary screening facility at Battery Park, including screening of passengers and bags with magnetometers and X-ray scanners, can address issues raised while we undertake an additional thorough review of the security procedures.”
“I’m very glad the Department of the Interior changed their minds,” Schumer said.
Schumer added: “This solution wisely avoids any trade-off between speed-of-opening and optimum security procedures. I told Secretary Jewell that we in New York appreciate her commitment to security and to reopening access to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg also released a statement in support of the decision.
“It’s the right decision, and an example of government agencies working together to achieve practical solutions. I want to thank the Secretary for listening to our concerns and working with us to address them,” Bloomberg said in the statement. “We will do everything we can to assist in getting the screening procedures in place in time for the July 4 holiday and we look forward to continuing our work with the National Park Service to protect Lady Liberty and the millions of Americans who will visit her in the years to come.”
Schumer and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly had expressed concerns that the now-canceled policy change would put visitors at risk.
“It means someone, God forbid, could bring an explosive device on the boat,” Schumer said last week. “Imagine, God forbid, a big bomb exploding on a boat going to the Statue of Liberty with hundreds of people on it.”
“Leaving the ferry with hundreds of people on board heading towards a national symbol without screening, that’s like a sitting duck in New York Harbor,” Schumer added. “Could you imagine if airplane passengers were not screened before they boarded a plane and instead they were screened after the plane landed. That makes no sense. It would be unimaginable, but that’s what the Parks Service in effect is doing here.”
Noting that the procedure of screening visitors in Battery Park was put in place just after 9/11, Kelly said last week that terrorist groups “have an interest in targeting locations that represent America” and “the threat has not abated.”
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