Schumer Moves To Force Park Service To Reopen Statue of Liberty’s Summit
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Saying the Statue of Liberty’s shuttered crown has become a symbol of fear rather than freedom, Senator Schumer plans to introduce a measure that would force the National Park Service to reopen the monument’s summit to the public.
“The Park Service’s foot-dragging has gotten us nothing but a view of Lady Liberty’s toes,” Mr. Schumer said yesterday as he stood with Senator Menendez of New Jersey and Reps. Anthony Weiner and Jerrold Nadler of New York on the Battery Park promenade.
The lawmakers, all Democrats, want the Park Service to commit to reopening the statue’s crown by July 4; otherwise, Mr. Schumer said he would introduce an amendment to the immigration bill mandating public access to the top of the monument. Messrs. Schumer, Menendez, and Weiner also said they sent a letter to President Bush’s nominee for Interior Secretary, Dirk Kempthorne, whom the Senate is expected to confirm shortly.
Mr. Schumer’s threat comes after the House last week overwhelmingly passed an amendment sponsored by Mr. Weiner that would allocate $1 million in funds to the Park Service to help secure Lady Liberty for public access. While the House measure does not force the Park Service to act, its passage by a vote of 266 to 152 was seen as a show of support for reopening.
A popular tourist attraction for decades, the statue was closed for nearly three years following the attacks of September 11, 2001. The Park Service reopened the statue’s pedestal in August 2004 but has kept the observation area on the crown off-limits, citing safety concerns. A spokesman for the agency, Brian Feeney, said yesterday the Parks Service does not comment on pending legislation. “The safety of our visitors is always our first concern,” he said, adding that visitors had made very few complaints about the Liberty Island experience.
Citing the reopening of other national monuments following the September 11 attacks, the lawmakers yesterday said they were fed up with excuses from the Park Service. “The bottom line is they don’t have the will to do it,” Mr. Schumer said.