- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 30, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) — The Statue of Liberty, closed immediately after the September 11 terrorist attacks, will reopen to the public this summer, officials said yesterday.

Pledges of $7 million in donations, including a $100,000 gift from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, will finance upgrades that were necessary at the national monument before it could be reopened.

Currently, tourists can visit Liberty Island but are not allowed inside the 151-foot statue in New York Harbor.

“Safety of our citizens and preservation of the statue are our main goals,” Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton said, acknowledging that the 118-year-old statue was “an attractive terrorist target.”

The billionaire mayor, who joined Mrs. Norton at a news conference on the island, said he was “proud to have played such a small role” in getting the statue open to the public once again.

Mrs. Norton said an examination of the national monument revealed potential for fire and a lack of exits. Screening procedures, much like those at airports, and a reservation system to reduce long lines will be implemented once the monument reopens in late July, the secretary said.

She said after the upgrades are completed, the public will be allowed to climb the 354 steps to the statue’s crown or go to observation deck.

The island was closed for 100 days after the attacks. Airport-type metal detectors were installed to screen visitors boarding the ferry from lower Manhattan before the island was reopened in December 2001. But the statue has remained closed.

Since September 11, 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 statue had undergone a major restoration for its 100th birthday in 1986.

The upgrade project is being overseen by the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation.

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