Liberation of Lady Liberty gets a boost


President Obama’s Interior secretary visited the Statue of Liberty on the administration’s fourth day and did something New Yorkers and tourists have been blocked from doing since 9/11: Climb up to Lady Liberty’s crown.

As U.S. senators, both Barack Obama and the secretary, Ken Salazar of Colorado, supported reopening the crown. It was closed ostensibly for security reasons after the terror attacks, but Liberty Island reopened in 2002, and later a revamped pedestal under the statue opened. The National Park Service, a division of the Interior Dept., has said the spiraling, cramped stairway to the crown can’t reopen for fire safety reasons.

Under pressure from the New York Congressional delegation, the Park Service agreed to study the issue last year, and a report outlining whether it can be reopened is expected in a few months.

Salazar did not commit to reopening the statue, but he said he hoped to do so, and legislators took heart in the fact that the statue was the first national monument the secretary visited.

“Finally, we have a secretary who understands that the only obstacle to opening the crown is a lack of courage and imagination,” U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, who has led the effort to reopen the crown, said Friday. “Today we are a step closer to providing safe access to the heights of Lady Liberty.”

Weiner said visits to the statue are down by almost 30 percent since the crown was closed.

Possibilities under consideration include limiting the number of people who can be on the stairs at the same time and a height limit.

“It is cramped,” said Weiner, according to the New York Times. “It is hot. It probably isn’t completely safe to have everyone go up, in any numbers, at any time. But the Park Service is full of slightly dangerous things you can do.”

Salazar sounded impressed when he emerged from the statue, reportedly saying, “One word: Awesome.”