NEW YORK -- Access to the Statue of Liberty, which has been closed since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, will be relaxed beginning this summer, although tourists will still not be allowed inside the statue itself. Pledges of $7 million in donations, including a $100,000 gift from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, will finance upgrades that were necessary before the monument could be reopened.
Interior Secretary Gale Norton said yesterday that the observation deck on the statue's pedestal will be reopened sometime in late July.
Currently, tourists can visit Liberty Island but are not allowed inside the 151-foot statue or its pedestal.
"This impressive monument has always been a beacon for our shores," said Norton. "Unfortunately, she has also been a symbol to the darker forces of terrorism before and after September 11."
Bloomberg, who joined Norton at a news conference on the island, said he was "proud to have played such a small role" in getting the statue more available to the public.
Norton said an examination of the 118-year-old national monument in New York Harbor revealed potential fire problems and a lack of exits.
Security screening procedures, much like those at airports, will be implemented along with a reservation system to reduce long lines.
After the upgrades are completed, the public will be allowed to enjoy the panoramic view from the observation deck at the top of the pedestal, about 16 stories above ground.
They will no longer be allowed into the crown, reached via narrow and winding stairs, because it cannot accommodate large numbers of tourists and does not meet local fire, building, or safety codes.
The island was closed for 100 days after Sept. 11, 2001. Airport-type metal detectors were installed to screen visitors boarding the ferry from Lower Manhattan, and the island was reopened in December 2001. But the statue itself has remained closed.
Since the terrorist attacks, officials have said the number of visitors to Liberty Island has dropped by 40 percent. Still, more than 4 million people have visited since then.
The upgrade project is being overseen by the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. The statue had undergone a major restoration for its 100th birthday in 1986.