Monday, August 09, 2010

Statue of Liberty to Close For Renovations in 2011

The Statue of Liberty will close for nine months beginning October 2011 to vastly improve access to the crown. The statue had been off limits to tourists following the 9/11 terror attacks and visitors were able only to view the statue from the pedestal. The statue reopened to tourists earlier this year after security improvements were made.
The statue is scheduled to close in October 2011, after its 125th anniversary, to create a secondary stairwell down from the pedestal. Right now, tourists go up one side and down another. One elevator is installed for tourists who can't or don't want to walk up; firefighters don't use elevators in emergencies.

The statue shut down after the Sept. 11 terror attacks and reopened in 2004 after the $20 million upgrade. The crown remained off-limits, mostly because the narrow, double-helix staircase could not be safely evacuated in an emergency and didn't comply with fire and building codes.

A stairwell to the observation area at the pedestal is forgiving, and air conditioned, with handrails and landings where people can rest of they need to.

From there, those with access to the crown ascend into the statue's body, where it's considerably warmer, aided by handrails. The shallow steps are 19 inches wide and taper at one end. Head clearance is just a little more than 6 feet.

The parks service is upfront about the difficulty of the climb to the top, warning that only people who can walk unassisted should even attempt it and should drink water at least 30 minutes beforehand on hot days. Tourists often suffer heat exhaustion, shortness of breath, panic attacks, claustrophobia and fear of heights.

The crown remains extremely popular, however: No tickets are available until November.
Work will involve building a second staircase to lead up to the crown. For those who haven't made the daunting climb, it's a test of endurance and stamina because the narrow spiral staircase can lead to vertigo and disorientation, to say nothing of heat exhaustion on hot days.

The interior framework of the statue was designed by Gustaf Eiffel, who later created the famous Eiffel Tower in Paris. Construction of the secondary staircase will have to work around Eiffel's design.

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