Department Of Interior

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Office of the Secretary
Contact: John Wright
For Immediate Release: March 30, 2004
Secretary Norton Announces
New Visitor Plan for Statue of Liberty

NEW YORK-Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton, National Park Service Director Fran P. Mainella and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg today announced a visitor use and protection plan that would increase access to the Statue of Liberty for the visiting public later this summer.

"Under the new plan, visitors will be able to tour the Statue of Liberty museum, see close-up views of the statue from the promenade and enjoy the 360-degree panoramic view of New York Harbor from the observation deck at the top of the pedestal," Norton explained. "That deck is 150 feet or about 16 stories above the water line. Near the base of the statue, visitors will have a newly created opportunity to see up into the intricate inner structure of the statue itself through a glass ceiling."

These opportunities will be possible starting in about four months time, because the Park Service will upgrade emergency exits, create new exits and install a secondary screening process. In addition, visitors will be able to obtain reservations through a ticketing system that will help eliminate long lines.

"We are excited to be able to offer this great opportunity to our visitors." Mainella noted. "Park employees are working diligently to ensure visitors have a positive experience. And, we are grateful to be once again working in partnership with the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, which has raised more than $7 million to make improvements at the statue."

"Safety of citizens and preservation of the statue are our main goals," said Norton. "After September 11th , we were compelled to take a hard, overall look at the security of the Nation's icon of freedom. We had to reassess what it means to provide an appropriate level of safety and emergency services for our visitors, especially at a location that is an attractive terrorist target."

The Statue of Liberty Monument has three sections, the statue itself, a pedestal and Fort Wood. The pedestal was built atop Fort Wood, a star-shaped fort built in 1811, which houses the museum. The fort essentially had only one way to enter or leave, which created fire safety concerns. The construction of new stairways and exits on an historic structure like the Statue takes time and must be done correctly.

The Statue has undergone a series of security reviews. Many safety improvements have been made including overhauling the fire systems and enclosing existing stairways to provide safe passage to exits. The Park Service is implementing many of the security recommendations from the multi-agency reviews. However, at this time, there will be no visitor access to the interior of the statue.

Prior to September 11th, less than 1/3 of visitors climbed to the crown of the statue. Its interior was not designed to accommodate tourists and does not meet local fire, building, or safety codes. The narrow and winding stairs were designed for access by a light keeper and maintenance crews only. There is little room to evacuate an injured person. The interior of the statue also lacks the compartmentalization necessary for fire safety.

In the past two years, the Interior Department has invested $19.6 million in security enhancements for the Statue. Plans for the project anticipate $9 million in additional spending this calendar year. To complement the federal funding effort, the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation has partnered with the Park Service to make a number of critical safety improvements.

"This private support follows a grand tradition of the statue dating back to Joseph Pulitzer's nationwide fundraising efforts back in 1885 to help build the pedestal for the statue," said Norton. "In 1982, the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation was established as a presidential commission by President Reagan to raise money to restore the statue."

"The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of freedom around the world," said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. "I am proud to have played a small role in helping to re-open one of our City's and our country's most treasured historic sites. I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, especially American Express and the Daily News, for helping to make this opening possible. In addition, I would like to thank Secretary Norton for her agencies commitment to reopening the Statue of Liberty."

"The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation is delighted with this action," said Stephen A. Briganti, Foundation President and CEO. "Once again, as it did in 1880s and 1980s, the private sector has rallied to the support of Lady Liberty, allowing her to open her doors to her millions of annual visitors. One of our corporate sponsors, Wal-Mart, has just donated $3 million. We owe thanks to them and to American Express, Folgers, Met Life and the New York Daily News, as well as the thousands of Americans who have made contributions. Folgers and Wal-Mart will be conducting their sponsorship programs throughout the summer."

The Statue of Liberty was closed on September 11, 2001. As a result of initial security improvements, the National Park Service was able to reopen Liberty Island to visitors in December 2001.

The closure was only the second in Liberty's history. The first was in 1916 when German saboteurs blew up an arms depot near the New Jersey shore, just west of the Statue. The explosion impact damaged Liberty's arm, weakening the structure to the point that all public access to the torch immediately ended.

Statue of Liberty Visitor Use and Protection Plan - U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service (March 30, 2004)


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