NEW YORK, March 22 (Reuters) - The U.S. National Park Service is relocating security operations for the Statue of Liberty over the objections of the New York Police Department, saying on Friday it will move screening to Ellis Island from Manhattan when the statue reopens on July 4.
The statue has been closed to the public since late October because of Superstorm Sandy.
The landmark has been presumed to be a potential target since the hijacked-airliner attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Officials closed access to the inside of the statue after the attacks and did not reopen it for almost eight years.
The nearly 4 million tourists a year who visit Liberty Island, home of the statue in New York Harbor, previously went through airport-style screening in Manhattan before boarding ferries. That screening will move to Ellis Island, which sits next to Liberty Island and is home to an immigration museum.
“The Park Service’s decision to reopen the Statue of Liberty without screening in Manhattan was made against the NYPD’s recommendation and leaves unresolved the vulnerability to attack on ferry passengers en route to both Liberty and Ellis Islands,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said.
The decision to move security operations came after a lengthy review, said Linda Friar, a spokesperson for the National Park Service.
The contract for the Manhattan security tent, which was badly damaged in the hurricane, expires at the end of March. Even before Sandy hit, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department had asked the Park Service to remove the tent, Friar said.
The initial security facilities on Ellis Island will be temporary and the Park Service plans to build a permanent structure that can handle extreme weather.
U.S. officials announced plans on Tuesday to reopen the Statue of Liberty to tourists on the Independence Day holiday after a $59 million project to repair damage on Liberty and Ellis islands caused by Sandy.
Surging seawater covered 70 percent of Liberty Island and all of Ellis Island, Friar said.
The museum at nearby Ellis Island, where 12 million immigrants entered the United States from 1892 to 1954, will remain closed until further notice. (Editing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Peter Cooney)