Statue of Liberty May Once Again Open to Top

Statue of Liberty; Brian Auer Photo

The Statue of Liberty, is it time to open up the crown once again to visitation? Brian Auer Photographer, found via Flikr

Did you know, that since September 11th 2001, the only park that hasn't returned to full operation is the Statue of Liberty? It used to be that visitors could climb the stairs and take in the view of New York Harbor from the crown of the statue. A lot of people miss those days, and would like to see the opportunity to visit the top of Lady Liberty happen once again. Leading the charge has been a Congressman from New York, Anthony Weiner. Legislation he authored asking that the statue entirely reopen, has unanimously passed the House. “The House of Representatives has spoken, and the National Park Service should promptly restore the Statue of Liberty to her full glory,” said Rep. Weiner. According to a press release from his office, the Statue of Liberty has seen a 40.8% drop in visitors since the crown was closed to the public.

The National Park Service has been put in a very difficult place. Their position has been that the stairway to the top of the statue is dangerous. The chief of public affairs for the NPS, David Barna, had this to say about the situation to the New York Times earlier this month:

Yes, it is and was about terrorism, but yes, it is and it was about ensuring the safety of our visitors. That crown access route violates every fire code in the city of New York and the state of New York and the state of New Jersey. If that was a building in downtown New York, you would not allow public access and the Fire Department would not allow public access. ... If you had a trash can fire at the bottom of that spiral stair, you could be in trouble very quickly.

Wikipedia says that only about 30 people could fit into the stairs and viewing platform at any time, adding that the wait times to access the stairway and crown frequently topped 3 hours. The interior of the statue can be unbearably hot and stinky on a summer's day, and once at the top, there isn't much time to get a peek out a tiny window before you must move along. And, as I understand it (although, unable to confirm), the interior of the statue was never intended to be an attraction for tourists, but was built only for maintenance. As I think we've discovered though with newspaper articles, letters to the editor, and votes in the House, the only thing that matters at this point, is that access be restored.

In other Statue of Liberty news, there will be a new concessionaire running the ferry to Ellis Island. Hornblower Cruises, the same operation which manages the ferry to Alcatraz Island in San Francisco, will be providing some new services to its customers visiting New York City. Among the changes, online ticketing to reduce wait times, multimedia presentations, and free podcasts available for download. You can read more about it here, in the NY Newsday.

Comments

I visited the crown 5-6 years before 9/11, and it was a wonder to behold. Yes, it was only a quick stop (due to the long lines and crowds), but it was worth it. You really get a feel for the place when you're crawling around inside it, and even when you're trapped inside, waiting your turn, you can really marvel at the construction of the thing.

I'm in favor of re-opening the crown, although they may want to establish some time of timed ticketing system like they do at other big attractions, especially during the heat of summer (when it's especially dangerous).

That's pretty interesting, I had no idea they were considering opening the top back up. I haven't had the opportunity to go inside the statue, but I would certainly consider it if they allowed access to the top again.

Thanks, by the way, for choosing my photo to accompany your article! She's a beautiful lady, and there are tons of photos of her out there. I'm flattered that you've chosen mine.

Brian Auer

My wife and I took our 6 year old grand daughter (at her request) to "Lady liberty" on June 12, 2008. We had a wonderful time, however, our grand daughter was disappointed that we could not go into "Lady Liberty" and look out her crown. She and we enjoyed the visit, including the ferry ride, but it would have been significantly more meaningful and memorable if access was available to the crown.

With regard to safety of people visiting as a reason not to open access; I would point out that many of the National Parks out west (especially the Grand Canyon National Park) would not pass basic safety code requirements if applied, and fatalities do occur each year. The risks, of course, need to be identified to the public, but then it is up to us to take those risks or not. And I think that "We the People" have stated our wish for access through our representatives in Washington DC.

P.S. It is well worth visiting "Lady Liberty" from the New Jersey ferry terminal in Liberty Park. The parking is close, safe, and only $5. The crowds are significantly smaller, which translates into less hassle and a much more enjoyable ferry ride.

John - I sympathize with your perspective. There is, however, a basic difference from the safety of walking along the rim of a canyon and that of the stairs in the Statue of Liberty: one is a natural condition, the other is human made. There is a far great liability when allowing the public to use an unsafe constructed structure than to simply allow them to venture into a natural area. I cannot say I agree with the NPS postion on the Statues, but it is a very different situation. I think the NPS could solve this problem by issuing timed tickets that allow only a few visitors per hour to the top. Yes, it would prevent most people frlom getting to the crown, but most people did not go to the crown before it was closed just because of the extensive wait time and sheer fatigue of climbing the stairs. Not to mention the heat on summer days. There are many places in the park system where only a few people get to experience a special place because the logistics prevent wide open use. Walking the stairs at the Washington Monument or touring Independence Hall, for example. The Statue crown could be managed in a similar manner.

I have always had an infascination with the Statue of Liliberty since I was a little girl. I am now 32 years old and I still have one till this day. It would be a life long dream of mine to actually travel inside the Statue of Liberty and to get a once in a lifetime opportunity to get to the crown of Lady liberty. This would be an ulimate experince for me to behold. Also this would be a cherishable event that I would truly cherish for the rest of my life. When it is determined that the crown is safe and it will be reopened to the public, I will be the first one in line. If it was an all day or night experience I would do what every it took to get to the crown. A true supporter of Lady Liberty.