A file photo of the Statue of Liberty.The crown of the Statue of Liberty, the US monument symbolizing freedom and democracy, may reopen to visitors by the July 4th holiday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said on Tuesday.
The crown of the Statue of Liberty, the US monument symbolizing freedom and democracy, may reopen to visitors by the July 4th holiday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said on Tuesday.
One of the first sights seen by millions of immigrants who arrived in New York harbor in the 19th and 20th centuries, the statue was closed to the public after the September 11, 2001 attacks because of safety concerns.
The museum gallery and observation deck at the landmark's base were reopened to the public in 2004, but access beyond that point remained prohibited.
Salazar said his department is considering implementing a ticketing or lottery system to allow small groups to enter at specific times of the day, similar to crowd control and safety procedures taken at the Washington Monument.
Representative Anthony Weiner, a New York Democrat and leading advocate for reopening the crown, welcomed the possibility.
"I can't think of a better birthday present for our nation. Reopening the crown of lady liberty will restore a quintessential New York and American experience," Weiner said.
The National Park Service closed the crown because access to the top of the statue, which depicts a robed woman holding a torch, is limited to a narrow stairwell with a handrail on one side. In the event of an emergency, there is no quick exit.
"If you put several hundred people in there and there is some kind of event, lots of people could be killed very quickly," Salazar said.
While the number of visitors to Lady Liberty, which the United States received as a gift from France in 1886, has fallen in the past eight years, numbers are rising again.
About 3.2 million people visited the statue in 2007, up from 2.5 million in 2006 but below the 3.6 million in 2000, the park service said.