Between 1892 and 1954, thousands and thousands of Jews escaping religious persecution came into the United States through Ellis Island. The tired, poor, huddled masses were greeted by the Statue of Liberty, a beacon of light and hope, a symbol of the future that lay ahead. Tall and proud, she welcomed Jewish immigrants to their new home.
Since then, Lady Liberty has become the most prominent symbol of freedom in the United States. But today, Lady Liberty is not free.
Lady Liberty’s crown and the observation deck it houses have been closed for the past seven years. It’s well past time we cut her chains.
After the September 11 terrorist attacks, national parks, monuments and memorials throughout the country closed. Almost immediately thereafter, with some changes to security, every single one reopened, except for the Statue of Liberty. While Lady Liberty’s base and pedestal were reopened in August 2004, her crown still remains closed.
While it may not be the most pressing issue facing the country in the aftermath of the attacks, it is not a frivolous one — Lady Liberty is symbolically important to national morale.I remember when my parents took me to the Statue of Liberty as a child. That iconic experience of climbing Lady Liberty’s narrow staircase is one I will never forget, and it pains me that the youngest generation of Americans has been denied this experience.
The National Parks Service has deemed the narrow staircase leading up to Lady Liberty’s crown unsafe. The problem is, the parks service never tried to make the staircase safe.
That’s why in 2005 I introduced the Save the Statue of Liberty Act, which required the National Parks Service to reopen her crown. Congress has allocated more than enough funding to the parks service. What is lacking is something Congress cannot allocate to the parks service: the imagination, courage and leadership to overcome these security challenges.
That is, until now. Due to Congressional pressure, the National Parks Service finally agreed to investigate options to secure Lady Liberty’s crown and allow public access. The plans are currently underway.
While no place is completely safe, we can make Lady Liberty’s crown as safe as possible. The fact that the National Parks Service has ignored this crucial task for seven years is an embarrassment.
Whether visitors are asked to sign a waiver, check their bags or required to enroll online in advance, Congress is willing and eager to be flexible. We understand changes must be made and we are anxious to see the crown reopened.
Hopefully this past July 4 will be the last Independence Day on which the Statue of Liberty does not stand in all its former glory.
There are 162 steps up to Lady Liberty’s crown, and the experience of climbing them is a thrilling one. When you finally make it up there, you can see for yourself what all the fuss is about.
Rep. Anthony Weiner is a Democrat from New York.