New security measures for visitors going to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island could make the national landmarks vulnerable to terrorism, officials said Monday.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) joined NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly in calling for security checkpoints to be moved back to Battery Park for visitors going to the two island landmarks.
"Millions of Americans who visit this national treasure every year will be at risk," Schumer said at a Battery Park news conference, with Lady Liberty in the distance behind him. "The terrorists are looking for our weak pressure points . . . We learned that at the Boston Marathon."
The National Park Service decided to screen visitors at Liberty Island and Ellis Island after superstorm Sandy struck the region in October.
The change, Kelly said, makes the landmarks less safe by allowing attackers to board packed ferries with weapons before being screened. Schumer called the statue a "natural target."
Liberty Island will reopen July 4, which is when the new rules are scheduled to go into effect. The Park Service and the Department of the Interior have not responded to questions.
Kelly said he sent a letter to the new Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, hoping to convince her the new checkpoints are "unwise." Schumer sent a similar letter to park service director Jonathan Jarvis.
Richard Bennett, 42, of London, who plans to see Liberty Island, said he would feel safer with the checkpoints in Battery Park. "Because then, anyone could get on that boat and you know."
The statue was closed after Sandy. Storm surges flooded the island, destroying boilers and electrical systems. The statue, which is on higher ground, remained intact.
The Ellis Island Immigration Museum, which suffered severe damage, remains closed for repairs. 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." With AP