Tourists won’t be climbing back up to the Statue of Liberty’s crown.
The crown has been closed since the 2001 terrorist attacks. Wednesday, the National Park Service said letting the people climb the cramped spiral staircase again is simply too hazardous, due to risks from fire and terrorism.
“For the better part of three years now, they’ve been dancing around this issue,” said Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y. “This is the first time they’ve said they’re not moving forward, they’re essentially done looking at it.”
He called the decision “the final victory of the terrorists on Sept. 11.”
In a letter to Weiner dated Aug. 4, outgoing Park Service Director Fran Mainella said, “The current access patterns reflect a responsible management strategy in the best interests of all our visitors.”
Another congressman, who oversees the House subcommittee on national parks, said he may hold hearings to re-examine the issue and the agency’s decision.
“While I respect the Park Service’s justified concern for public safety, I am disappointed with their apparent decision to stop trying,” said Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M. “Americans have a right to hear something better from their National Park Service than the implied message of this letter, which is ‘never.”’
Crown not designed for the public
Mainella said that even before 2001, the park service had been re-evaluating public safety at the statue, particularly concerns about fire safety on the 168-step ascent from the base to the crown. She said the crown was originally designed for maintenance workers, not the public.
The statue, which sits on 12-acre Liberty Island in New York Harbor, was shut down after Sept. 11, 2001. After spending $20 million on security and safety improvements, the government reopened the statue in 2004 but only up to the top of the pedestal, or Lady Liberty’s toes.
The new security measures included a bomb detection device that blows air into clothing and then checks for particles of explosives residue. Bomb-sniffing dogs also have been seen at the site.
The Statue of Liberty was dedicated in 1886 and was designated a national monument in 1924. It was restored for its centennial on July 4, 1986. Its torch has been closed since 1916.
Sen. Charles Schumer, who led a Senate vote earlier in the year to try to force the reopening of the crown, said the agency still has not explained why the Statue of Liberty’s crown remains closed while the Washington Monument stairs are open.
“In this case, freedom has given way to fear,” said Schumer, D-N.Y. “One of my favorite memories as a child was going up to the top of the Statue of Liberty and looking out of her crown to what I thought were the ends of the earth. Now, generations of kids and adults will be denied that opportunity.”