Lady Liberty To Reopen

The Statue of Liberty, closed immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, will reopen to the public this summer, Secretary of Interior Gail Norton said Tuesday, Tuesday march 30, 2004.
AP
The Statue of Liberty, closed immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, will reopen to the public this summer, officials said Tuesday.

Pledges of $7 million in donations, including a $100,000 gift from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, will finance upgrades that were necessary at the national monument before it could be reopened.

Currently, tourists can visit Liberty Island but are not allowed inside the 45-meter (151-foot) statue in New York Harbor.

"Safety of our citizens and preservation of the statue are our main goals," said Secretary of the Interior Gail Norton, acknowledging that the 118-year-old statue was "an attractive terrorist target."

The billionaire mayor, who joined Norton at a news conference on the island, said he was "proud to have played such a small role" in getting the statue available to the public once again.

According to Norton, an examination of the national monument revealed potential for fire problems and a lack of exits. Screening procedures, much like those at airports, and a reservation system to reduce long lines will be implemented once the monument reopens in late July, Norton said.

She said after the upgrades are completed, the public will be allowed to climb the 354 steps to the statue's crown, or observation deck.

The island was closed for 100 days after Sept. 11, 2001. Airport-type metal detectors were installed to screen visitors boarding the ferry from lower Manhattan before the island was reopened in December 2001. But the statue itself has remained closed.

Since the terrorist attacks, officials have said the number of visitors to Liberty Island has dropped by 40 percent. Still, more than 4 million people have visited since then. The statue had undergone a major restoration for its 100th birthday in 1986.

The upgrade project is being overseen by the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation.