NEW YORK, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- The 300-foot-tall Statue of Liberty reopened Tuesday, but tourists must now settle for a peek at the intricate steel infrastructure instead of going to the crown.
The torch has been closed to visitors since 1916, the crown and the rest of the statue since Sept. 11, 2001, after the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, just across a stretch of New York harbor to the statue's left. The grounds of Liberty Island were reopened Dec. 20, 2001.
"Most of the improvements we made since closing have had to do with safety," said Fran Mainella, director of the National Park Service, who also said there were extensive security upgrades. "Getting people in and out safely was the big concern, and we were not even meeting building codes. The park service tries to be exemplary, at the leading edge on safety."
On the promenade of the 11-point star of Fort Wood, dating back to 1812, where the statue, pedestal and base rest, Mainella said the structure was compartmentalized, so a fire could be sealed off and kept from spreading. New sprinklers and emergency interior lighting were also installed.
Pointing to one of the new wooden stairway sets leading over the fort's outermost parapet to the ground, a good story below, Mainella explained, "They are for evacuation."
All staff members, including concessionaires, have been trained not only in assisting in an evacuation but also as an extension of the security system, to report anything suspicious.
Larry Parkinson, deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior for law enforcement and security, briefly discussed some of the new security measures as a single black-clad member of the parks police Special Weapons And Tactics unit was spotted, an automatic weapon at the ready.
Parkinson, who was pleased to talk about the three scanners visitors to the museum and statue must go through, dubbed "puffers," acknowledged only that there was a SWAT team "presence" in New York at park service "icons" such as the Statue of Liberty and nearby Ellis Island Immigration museum. Officials were reluctant to discuss specific security improvements, but video surveillance appeared ubiquitous.
"They are not always visible, but they are around," he said of the SWAT team members, an indication of just how great a fear there is of a terrorist attack on the United States' liberty icon.
The puffers appear to be airport magnetometers on steroids. So big are the General Electric-produced devices, about the size of three magnetometers, and costing about $110,000 each, they have pedestrian walk signs for entering and exiting and a recorded voice warning you to stand still mid-machine as gentle puffs of air rustle clothing.
"They are explosives detectors," was all Mainella would explain, referring questions to the manufacturer.
The GE Web site describes the EntryScan3 Walk-Through Explosives Detector as a device that "can help detect microscopic traces of explosives and identify potential threats to security screeners." It identifies positive and negative ions, "enabling the detection of the broadest spectrum of explosives in seconds."
After the scanners, once again, visitors go through the familiar airport-style standard magnetometer. That would be the second time a potential visitor to the statue would have to go through such a process within a few minutes.
Before visitors can get on the Circle Line Statue of Liberty Ferry in Manhattan's Battery Park or New Jersey's Liberty State Park, they have to go through airport-like security checks.
For the first time, visitors in wheelchairs will be able to get through the statue's museum and up to the promenade and down again. But they will not be able to get to the level where they can look up inside the statue to see the steel-bar webbing spreading outward from a central pylon to support the blackened inside skin of what appears outside as green, the color of weathered copper sheets.
Visitors to the tiny observation platform and the base of the 150-foot sculpture are asked to stand in squares or rectangles delineated on the floor with black-and-yellow safety striping so they can look up into the statue, lights highlighting sections as a National Park Service ranger, such as Victoria Scott, explain its intricacies. At that point the tourist is just under the feet of the statue, or 20-feet below the calf on the statue's invisible leg.
A video show accompanies the ranger's presentation. Out the door on a narrow balcony are spectacular views of New York Harbor, New York City and New Jersey.
The masterpiece of sculptor Frederic Bartholdi, with infrastructure by Alexandre Eiffel, of Paris tower fame, has graced New York Harbor since 1886 as a gift from France.
The statue is anchored in bedrock, allowing the crown to sway 3 inches and the torch 5 inches in high winds, said Tara Hunt Melvin, another ranger who guides visitors through the museum in the statue's base.
But Bartholdi intended his work to be seen from the outside, and the interior initially was to be filled with sand.
With the torch it was technically labeled a lighthouse, originally, to ensure U.S. government funding for the base and maintenance.
Circle Line said it ferries about 6,000 people a day to Liberty and Ellis islands, with about half of them visiting the island.
A park service spokesman in Washington, David Barna, said of those, about 80 percent went to the base. At the outset, Barna said the park service will issue about 600 by-appointment "time passes" daily for the observation platform.
Passes are available at the ferry box offices or by reservation at 1-866-STATUE-4 for $1.75. The ferry ride to Liberty and Ellis islands costs $10.
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