The Statue of Liberty ferry service projected Thursday that 4 million people will visit the iconic symbol of freedom and Ellis Island this year -- a record breaker since Sept. 11, 2001.
"This year, we will hit 4 million," Michael K. Burke, Statue Cruises vice president and chief operating officer, said Thursday at the company's renovated Ellis Island office, which was flooded during superstorm Sandy two years ago.
Statue Cruises, which took over cruise tour operations from Circle Line in 2008, attributes the record volume to a more efficient security-screening process with state-of-the-art equipment and additional screeners, including a security tent with air conditioning and heating.
"Our security tent's new equipment has cut down the wait," Burke said.
Today, the time to go through security is "zero to 20 minutes," he said. After the terror attacks of 9/11, Statue of Liberty ferry riders waited "as much as one to two hours during holiday and summer peak days," he said.
Immediately after the attacks, visits to the Lady Liberty and Ellis Island were suspended for three months to set up the airport-style security screening that caused the long lines.
So far this year, Statue Cruises has transported 3.8 million people on its fleet of eight ferries -- six of which hold more than 800 passengers. Almost 27,000cq people boarded the ferries to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island on July 5th, Burke said.
Two years ago, superstorm Sandy flooded both Ellis Island and Liberty Island, forcing the closure of the national monuments for eight months.