Editorial: Don't fiddle with Statue of Liberty security
The Statue of Liberty will reopen on July 4, welcoming for the first time since superstorm Sandy the tired, the poor, the huddled masses of eager tourists, yearning to visit one of the world's great emblems of freedom. That's the good news. But a basic problem demands a fix before the ferries start churning again.
The feds want to implement a new security plan with the reopening that could leave Liberty Island and Ellis Island less protected from terrorism than they were before.
The National Park Service wants to consolidate its airport-style checkpoints in Manhattan's Battery Park and New Jersey's Liberty State Park into a system that screens visitors as they leave the boats at Ellis and Liberty islands.
The question is: Why diminish pre-Sandy security? The feds say this won't. But Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) convincingly insists it will -- that letting ferries filled with hundreds of unscreened passengers head for such national symbols is like sending "a sitting duck" into New York Harbor. New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly agrees. Kelly has been involved in a back-and-forth with federal Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, whose realm includes the National Park Service, pleading for a change in plans.
The result so far? Zip.
The park service may have a couple of reasons to resist. First, screening passengers as they disembark on Liberty and Ellis islands is cheaper and simpler. Plus the new modus operandi could get some of the service's neighbors -- especially in Manhattan -- off its back.
The Battery Conservancy, the nonprofit that manages Battery Park, has long found the parks service's screening facilities distasteful. And it's true -- the structures have an ugly, temporary look that compromises incredible harbor views. It's also true that the security queues with hundreds of tourists are revenue-rich targets for hawkers who know the boat schedules and create chaos when they go into their pitches and make their sales.
But the interests of security easily trump the interests of a convenient, orderly and aesthetically pleasing park. The National Park Service should return to its old system.