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Huddled masses yearning to breathe free, indeed. The federal government has announced that visitors to New York's world famous Statue of Liberty will be able to check out the statue's crown for the first time since shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. But, the breathtaking views will come only after a breathtaking climb up a cramped and steep staircase, and even the government is acknowledging that all of the risks associated with the climb can't be eliminated.
What's more, a new safety study shows that visitors to the crown will likely need to take in the views quickly and be on their way back down, so that overcrowding and unavoidable safety risks can be minimized.
On July 4, 2009, Lady Liberty's crown will re-open to visitors to the 12-acre Statue of Liberty National Monument in New York Harbor, under a plan announced last week by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), which runs the National Parks Service.
Taking "Steps" Toward Safety. DOI Secretary Ken Salazar acknowledged the safety challenges involved with re-opening the crown, and identified some measures the government is taking: "We cannot eliminate all the risk of climbing to the crown, but we are taking steps to make it safer. This includes raising the handrails on the spiral staircase and stationing rangers throughout the Statue to aid visitors."
Statue of Limitations. Access to and from the crown is only possible via a steep and narrow 168-step spiral staircase. Only 10 people at a time will be allowed inside the crown, under a preliminary plan from the DOI.
The New York Daily News, citing a report commissioned by the NPS, says that only 240 visitors a day can safely make the ascent to the crown, meaning that time spent admiring the view will be limited to five minutes per person.
According to the Daily News, the study found that there is no way to bring the crown's access route up to current safety standards: "Unsurprisingly, the study - which was heavily redacted - found Lady Liberty's cramped crown doesn't meet fire codes. That would require two separate sets of exit stairs from the crown, the report says, and there's no room for both."