Feds back off Statue of Liberty screening plan

The Statue of Liberty is seen from a The Statue of Liberty is seen from a Staten Island Ferry boat as it passes the famous national treasure. Lady Liberty will be up and running just in time to celebrate the Fourth of July -- eight months after 75 percent of the island was submerged during the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Repair crews have been busy working to repair Liberty Island's docks and replacing at least 53,000 bricks used to pave the island's promenade grounds. Mold and salt water destroyed electrical, telephone and radio infrastructure after basements were flooded including the Statue of Liberty. (May 9, 2013) Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

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Statue of Liberty visitors will be temporarily screened at Battery Park in a deal that also calls on New York City to fast-track permits and other work to rebuild security checkpoints damaged by superstorm Sandy, federal and local officials said Monday.

In a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg Monday, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell backed off screening visitors on Liberty Island.

The move comes after Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and city officials last week warned that on-site screening would make the national landmark vulnerable to terrorism when it reopens July 4.

"I believe that establishing a temporary screening facility at Battery Park . . . can address issues raised while we undertake an additional thorough review of the security procedures for visitors headed to the Statue of Liberty," Jewell wrote to Mayor Michael Bloomberg yesterday.

The move follows weeks of talks between New York and federal officials.

"This solution wisely avoids any trade off between speed-of-opening and optimum security procedures," Schumer said in a statement.

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The National Park Service had decided to screen visitors at Liberty Island and Ellis Island after superstorm Sandy struck the region in October. Before the storm, visitors and bags were checked at the ferry boarding point in Battery Park.

In the letter, Jewell asked the city to quickly approve permits allowing construction of the screening facility to begin immediately and to prioritize any needed electrical upgrades to Battery Park.

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Bloomberg also praised the decision, saying it was an "an example of government agencies working together to achieve practical solutions."

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