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BY KAITLYN MEADE | The Statue of Liberty’s security screening will remain in Battery Park for the foreseeable future, according to officials, as the screening tent is pitched in Battery Park to accommodate Lady Liberty’s July 4 re-opening date.
Manhattan Borough Parks Commissioner William Castro came before Community Board 1’s Financial District Committee on July 1 to give an update on security measures for the Statue of Liberty, which will welcome tourists back to its shores this week for the first time since Sandy rolled through the harbor in October 2012.
“As most of you know, the screening tent where we were screening along the promenade in the Battery was basically destroyed in Sandy and, in fact, the whole Statue of Liberty complex had to be worked on…” said Castro. “We have been working with the Parks Department and a number of city agencies to get the tent erected and everything set up, electrical and fiber optic.”
Castro said that the checkpoint at Battery Park will be “basically the same thing that was there before” and will include screening passengers and bags with x-ray scanners and magnetometers.
In June, the National Park Service abandoned a plan to relocate the Statue’s security checkpoint to Ellis Island after criticism by Senator Charles Schumer and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who were concerned that admitting passengers onto the ferry without screening them ahead of time could allow terrorists to smuggle weapons onboard.
Instead, they opted to temporarily reinstate the security measures put into place after Sept. 11, 2001, in which visitors were screened in a tent in Battery Park before departing for the monument. The plan has garnered criticism in Downtown circles because it clogged the park with tourists and litter.
While the tent is a temporary structure, it will have to last until a permanent location is found and adapted, Castro said.
When Ro Sheffe, chairperson of the Board 1 committee asked if a permanent location had been found yet, he replied, “There’s no set place right now…” He noted that the Parks Department was looking at several options, including a suggested location at Pier A, but that none of them had been found suitable yet.
One location endorsed by several local politicians is a Coast Guard facility in the Battery. A letter from U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, State Sen. Daniel Squadron and City Councilmember Margaret Chin asked Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to consider the location and to arrange a meeting to discuss the impacts of the screening tent on Battery Park.
In the meantime, Castro said that more screening machines will be set up this summer to keep the lines moving more quickly than in previous years.
Castro also said, in response to a question from committee member Pat Moore, that they are implementing a similar ticket system to the 9/11 Memorial in which visitors buy a ticket for a specific reservation time in advance, cutting down on long lines for tickets and allowing traffic to flow more evenly throughout the day.
“The percentage of people buying timed tickets has increased,” he said.