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Gate at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station called 'security risk,' tops Schumer's priority list

The front gate of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station is "a security risk," Sen. Charles E. Schumer said while standing in front of it Monday.

A more secure entrance to the base tops the list of $50 million worth of improvements the Senate minority leader wants to see at the base.

During a news conference, Schumer told reporters the $100 billion increase in future defense spending sought by President Trump and approved by Congress means that the money should be available in coming years for the upgrades he wants to see at the Niagara Falls site.

"I will use all the clout I have in Washington to make it happen," Schumer said.

The front gate is his top priority.

"It's a security risk. All you have to do is look at it," Schumer said. "The space between the guard station and the barrier is too short. Any security expert will tell you that's a sign of vulnerability, so we need to make this gate much more secure."

Asked by a reporter if he wasn't endangering security by publicly pointing that out, Schumer answered, "People who want to hurt us know more than we just talked about."

Besides the hardened gate, Schumer said the air base needs a longer runway, an improved communications building, a munitions storage building and other improvements to aging facilities.

He said the KC-135 tanker planes now assigned to the Niagara Falls base have to back up and turn around to get off the runway, wasting time that could be vital in an emergency.

Also needing improvement, Schumer said, are a medical clinic he regards as outdated, a civil engineering building that hasn't been changed since the 1950s and a storm sewage facility that "could be more environmentally friendly."

"Thank you, Sen. Schumer, for your unwavering and continued support," said John A. Cooper Sr., president of the Niagara Military Affairs Council, a civilian group that lobbies for air base programs and improvements.

On other topics, Schumer said legalizing marijuana should be up to the states. Friday, he called for decriminalizing the drug.

He said the Southwest Airlines engine explosion that killed a passenger and a recent helicopter crash in New York City show that the Federal Aviation Administration "has sort of let down its guard" on safety inspections.

"The FAA's got to get with it," he said. "They agree that the safety enforcement actions have gone down."

Schumer also said the White House has given him the name of a potential Republican for a vacant federal judgeship in Western New York. Schumer wouldn't disclose the name.

"I think it's a good person. I've checked him out with a lot of people in the Western New York legal community, both Democrats and Republicans," Schumer said.

Also, Schumer said he would use the current trade dispute with China to force the Chinese to help American efforts to make an agreement with the U.S. on nuclear arms.

"If we got tough with China on the economy, China would be more flexible on North Korea. I told the president that, and he seems to be moving in that direction," Schumer said. "I agree with the president on China and trade. ... I'd be tougher still, but he's been better than the last two presidents."

He said his advice to Trump on negotiations with North Korea is, "You better cut a good deal. Don't be taken in. 'Trust but verify,' as Ronald Reagan said. That applies to North Korea 10 times over."

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