House: Reopen Statue of Liberty's Crown

The Associated Press
Tuesday, June 26, 2007; 7:29 PM

WASHINGTON -- The House on Tuesday prodded parks officials to reopen the crown of the Statue of Liberty to the public _ a step the government says is too dangerous.

Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., for the second year in a row added an amendment to a spending bill giving the National Park Service $1 million to study how to safely reopen the staircase to the statue's crown _ something prohibited since the 2001 terror attacks.

"I'm not going to stop pushing on it and I think it's reasonable to expect that sooner or later they're going to have to answer," he said.

Tuesday's amendment, passed Tuesday by voice vote, does not force the park service to reopen the statue, and the agency has claimed the tightly packed, 168-step spiral metal staircase is a fire hazard and a terror risk.

Tourists are now allowed only as far as the pedestal, at Lady Liberty's toes.

The Weiner amendment redirects $1 million in funding from the Interior Department to the park service, which could use the money for safety improvements at the statue or for other purposes.

Last year after passage of a similar bill, the park service said safety did not permit the crown to be reopened. Weiner said that since then he has not been told what, if anything, was done with the money he set aside.

The lawmaker said the park service should listen to the advice of Congress and "restore the Statue of Liberty to her full glory."

National Park Service officials did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

The statue, which sits on 12-acre Liberty Island in New York Harbor, was shut down after Sept. 11, 2001. After spending $20 million on security and safety improvements, the government reopened the statue in 2004.

New security measures included a bomb detection device that blows air into clothing and then checks for particles of explosives residue. Bomb-sniffing dogs also have been seen at the site.

The Statue of Liberty was dedicated in 1886 and was designated a national monument in 1924. It was restored for its centennial on July 4, 1986. Its torch has been closed since 1916.

© 2007 The Associated Press