BATTERY PARK — Without a security plan in place for visitors to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said Tuesday that he couldn’t say when the iconic sites, shuttered in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, will be able to reopen.
The announcement came a day after reports that the National Park Service plans to take down the much-maligned security tents in Battery Park used to screen travelers before they board the ferry to the attractions, and move the security screening to Ellis Island instead.
But following the NYPD's continued objections to that plan, Salazar said Tuesday that the National Park Service was still weighing its options on how to manage security at the national landmarks.
“Without a decision made about security screening, we’ll not be able to make a decision about how fast we’re going to be able to open both Liberty and Ellis Island,” Salazar said after touring both islands, which he said sustained substantial damage during the storm.
Salazar said he’ll be meeting with the NYPD, which has opposed moving security out of Battery Park, along with other city and federal officials to determine how the security process will proceed. He anticipates there will be an answer about security in about 10 days.
Recent federal budget cuts could also delay the opening, Salazar said. The National Park Service may lose some staff, which means it would take longer to process the contracts necessary to make repairs, he said.
Once reopened, budget restrictions could also force Ellis and Liberty islands to only run five days a week, instead of the usual seven, Salazar added.
But despite the lingering debate over security, Liberty and Ellis Island Superintendent David Luchsinger said the current tents in Battery Park will definitely be torn down in March because of the damage they sustained during Sandy.