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.