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Statue of Liberty Crown to Reopen July 4th

By Ed O'Keefe

Visitors can get inside the Statue of Liberty's head starting July 4. (Photo by Reuters)

Updated 4:20 p.m. ET

The Statue of Liberty's crown will reopen to the general public on July 4, the first time since before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar made the announcement this morning on NBC's "Today Show," which had its four main anchors begin the show live from the top of the famed New York landmark.

"Today we're announcing that on the Fourth of July we will open up the crown of the Statue of Liberty to the entire people of America," Salazar told NBC's Matt Lauer. Watch the announcement below:

Salazar said his mandated review of logistical and safety concerns has concluded and that "improvements are going to happen" before the crown reopens in early July. The statue will remain open for the next two years then close for renovations in order to permanently repair security and safety concerns.

Visitors will be able to access the crown in groups of 10 at a time, guided by a National Park Service ranger, according to the Interior Department.

"We'll follow that up with more rehab and ultimately increase the number who can come up here," Salazar said from within the crown.

When asked about potential safety concerns within the tight space, Salazar said "We are worried about it and know that we have to take precautions before people can come up here." He said there will be two layers of security screening before visitors get to the top, but acknowledged his decision is "not going to be totally risk-free." He compared the Statue's tight space and the precautions and safeguards taken to how the National Park Service provides access to the top of the Washington Monument.

Salazar announced a review of the crown's access in January during a visit to Liberty Island. As a senator, he joined other lawmakers in asking the Park Service to determine what if any physical changes would be needed to bring Lady Liberty into compliance with various fire and safety codes. Baltimore-based Hughes Associates was hired to conduct the study.

The Park Service closed the Statue of Liberty and nearby Ellis Island to the public following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The statue's pedestal and lower observation deck was reopened to the public in Aug. 2004.

There has been broad support across the New York City region for reopening the crown and today's announcement is a victory for Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), who has long battled with the Park Service to reopen the crown. He even produced a YouTube video about getting to the top of Lady Liberty, in an effort to demonstrate the ease of the process.

"This is one of those instances where the public were way ahead of the bureaucrats," Weiner said during an interview. He later personally invited President Obama to visit the crown with him on July 4.

"The really frustrating thing is that there’s nothing they announced today that they couldn’t have announced in November 2001. It was just bureaucratic pigheadedness that had stopped them from doing this earlier." His office said that annual visits to Liberty Island have dropped since the park closed in September 2001, even though New York City tourism has climbed since then, suggesting visits to Lady Liberty would be higher if the crown was open.

But the Park Service has long expressed concerns about the climb to the crown, especially since the narrow 168-step staircase -- originally only intended for maintenance workers -- needs reinforcement. The upcoming two-year renovations will address those concerns, but Weiner thinks repairs could happen faster.

"I think that they’re still being a little bit too timid, but at least now they’re in a problem-solving mode and they realize that the problem was that Lady Liberty’s crown was closed," he said.

Salazar also announced today that the Interior Department will spend $25 million in economic stimulus funds to repair the Baggage and Dormitory Building at Ellis Island, once used as an immigration processing facility. It will also repair 2,000 feet of the island’s crumbling seawall.

By Ed O'Keefe  | May 8, 2009; 8:35 AM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments  
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Why the hell people need to go up there anyway? Its a statute not a climbing rock. At least government should make some money if somebody is so freakin' dumb and wants to be baboon monkey and climb; CHARGED THEM $25,000 FOR THE SUCH EXCITED CLIMB.

Posted by: BOBSTERII | May 8, 2009 9:05 AM | Report abuse

The administration was so scared of terrorists blowing up a symbol of freedom that they eliminated our freedom to visit that symbol and appreciate it in person. These decisions were made to cover their butt rather than for any real security reasons. Nobody wants to be the DHS chief who let the Statue of Liberty be attacked.

Posted by: fletc3her | May 8, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

This is very welcome news. My wife and I were very disappointed that we could not tour the crown on the last visit to the monument. I hope that we'll eventually be able to go to the torch as well. This will certainly add to the appeal of visiting the statue. Being allowed to enter the base and look around is not very satisfying after three and a half hours waiting for security.

Posted by: krell1 | May 8, 2009 10:29 AM | Report abuse

I used to care ...

Posted by: teplicky101 | May 8, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Scenario: Your son(or daughter) comes home after school and tells you he learned that people used to be able to visit the Crown in the Statue of Liberty. Then he asks you why people can't go up there anymore. What do you tell your child? "That the bad people want to blow it up" That kind of unsubstantiated fear is absurd.

Thanks go out to all those who worked on my child's behalf - So that I have the opportunity to take him up there, and let him experience a great tradition of our country. One day he will understand the importance of re-opening it, and why I took him there.

(on a side note - I get the feeling that I'm going to like this country alot more now that G.W. B. is out)

Posted by: kvn27 | May 8, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

One more sign that the administration that treated (and talked to us) like we were frightened children is gone for good. Good riddance to them all. May they be buried in the ash heap of history and their names never spoken except in rebuke and excoriation again.

Posted by: treetopflyer | May 8, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

What a wonderful way to mark our country's return to a nation of liberty and justice for all.

Posted by: DWinFC | May 8, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Salazar is opening it up,"to the entire people of America?"
Sounds like he is as ignorant as the rest of the cabinet incompetents.

Posted by: LarryG62 | May 8, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

This is awesome.

Hopefully, a full de-funding of the Department of Homeland Insecurity will follow!


Posted by: bs2004 | May 8, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

This is great news. I remember visiting the Statue of Liberty in the 70's on school trips and being able to go up into the crown and look out the little windows. I'm happy that people will be able to do that again.

Posted by: margaret6 | May 8, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

The Statue of Liberty has always symbolized the promise of America. This is our true identity. She is a gift to the world. Reopening Lady Liberty renews that promise and she will now forever stand as a beacon of hope. Viva La Liberty.

Posted by: mikeyeksigian | May 8, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

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