Statue of Liberty's Crown to Remain Closed to Visitors

Tourists won't be climbing back up to the Statue of Liberty's crown.

That's the word from the National Park Service to lawmakers, some of whom have been fighting to reopen the crown following the 2001 terror attacks.

The crown has been closed out of concerns that fire and terrorism hazards for the cramped spiral staircase could not be overcome.

"For the better part of three years now, they've been dancing around this issue," said Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., who has sought to force the National Park Service to reopen the crown.

"This is the first time they've said they're not moving forward, they're essentially done looking at it," said Weiner. He called the decision "the final victory of the terrorists on Sept. 11."

In a letter to Weiner dated Aug. 4, outgoing Park Service Director Fran Mainella wrote that "the current access patterns reflect a responsible management strategy in the best interests of all our visitors."

Another congressman, who oversees the House subcommittee on national parks, said he may hold hearings to re-examine the issue and the agency's decision.

"While I respect the Park Service's justified concern for public safety, I am disappointed with their apparent decision to stop trying," said Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M. "Americans have a right to hear something better from their National Park Service than the implied message of this letter, which is 'never."'

Mainella said that even before 2001, the park service had been re-evaluating public safety at the statue, particularly concerns about fire safety on the 168-step ascent from the base to the crown. She said the crown was originally designed for maintenance workers, not the public.

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, but only up to the top of the pedestal, or Lady Liberty's toes.

The 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.