On July 4th, the Statue of Liberty’s crown will be reopened to the public for the first time since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The NPS will start taking reservations this Saturday.
Lots of people feel that this is a development long past due. When security concerns forced the closing of the Statue of Liberty National Monument in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a coalition of New York/New Jersey boosters and tourism industry interests immediately began exerting political pressure to get it reopened. Millions of people throughout the country agreed that reestablishing public access to Lady Liberty would be an important expression of national pride and resolve.
Great joy attended the reopening of the Statue's base, pedestal and outdoor observation deck in 2004. Attention then came to focus on the matter of reopening the crown to public visitation.
By last summer, reopening the crown had become a very hot button issue. With political pressure ramping up swiftly, the National Park Service was really
feeling the heat. Initial NPS resistance to the crown reopening transitioned to a cooperative stance, and a detailed feasibility study was ordered. The study showed that it could be done (no surprise there), and when newly-appointed Interior Secretary Ken Salazar contributed his enthusiastic endorsement, the deal was sealed.
The first batch of crown visits will take place in less than a month. To cope with heavy demand, the Park Service has worked out a reservation system that has these salient features:
• Crown visit reservations will be available beginning at 10:00 a.m. this Saturday, June 13.
• Reservations can be booked through concessioner Statue Cruises, either online at theStatue Cruises website or by phoning 877-523-9849.
• All reservations will be made on a first come, first served basis.
• Reservations for crown visits may be made up to one year in advance of the visit day.
• Each customer can reserve up to four tickets.
• Only one reservation can be made every six months.
• Crown tickets will cost $3.00 each. This is in addition to, and will be combined with, reserved ferry tickets (currently $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for children).
The NPS plans to keep the Statue open every day throughout the year, weather permitting. However, access to the crown is severely limited, and current regulations allow for only about 240 crown visits per day. This guarantees that the demand for crown visits will greatly exceed the supply. People seeking reservations for crown visits will have to be very flexible and keep their expectations within bounds.
Safety and security concerns have compelled the Park Service to regulate crown visits very strictly. Here are some of the most important regulations, constraints, and precautions:
• A maximum of 30 people per hour will be allowed to negotiate the narrow steps leading to the crown.
• No more than ten visitors will be allowed in the crown at any one time. Each group of ten visitors will be accompanied by a ranger.
• Children must be at least four feet tall.
• All crown visitors will be given a safety talk beforehand. The physical demands of the climb will be spelled out very clearly. Visitors will be made very aware that although the first 186 steps of the climb are on a standard stairway, the 168 remaining steps are on an extremely steep and very narrow spiral stair. People will be discouraged from making the climb if they are physically unfit or unreasonably fearful of being in cramped spaces or high places.
• To protect visitors from heat injury the Statue will be closed whenever the outside temperature reaches 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Postscript: Big changes are in store for the Statue. The Park Service plans to significantly improve visitor flow throughout the Statue and substantially increase the number of visitors that can be safely allowed inside the monument. About two years from now, both the pedestal and the crown will be closed for extensive renovations that will take about two years to complete. After the retrofitting, the Statue should be able to accommodate at least 100,000 or so crown visits per year. As for the torch, well, that is an entirely different story. The torch has been closed to visitors since 1916 and will probably never again be opened to the public.