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Campaign Under Way to Reopen 'Lady Liberty' - 2003-11-26

A campaign is under way in New York to reopen one of the world's best-known symbols of freedom, the Statue of Liberty.

Few monuments in the world have the symbolic value of the Statue of Liberty. For generations, Lady Liberty , as she is often called, served as a beacon to immigrants from all over the world, their first view of the United States as they entered New York Harbor. The 46-meter high national monument on Ellis Island, is the subject of books, songs, poems, even a Broadway play.

The Statue of Liberty was immediately closed after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the city. Ellis Island and its immigration museum were reopened to the public a few months later after new security apparatus was installed. But the Statue of Liberty has remained closed due to security concerns. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says access to the symbol of freedom must be given back to the public.

"Sadly, however, since 9-11 as many of you know, the Statue has been closed due to security concerns. I have argued a number of times, as long as that is the case, in some senses then terrorists have won and we just cannot tolerate it," says Mr. Bloomberg. "That is not the New York we know in our hearts. It is not the city we want to share with the world. We have to get this Statue open."

Officials are particularly concerned about risks to visitors who may be inside the statue during an emergency. They say the Statue requires $5 million for more emergency exits and upgraded fire and emergency notification systems. The American Express Corporation, which is headquartered nearby in the downtown New York financial district, has pledged $3 million toward the campaign to reopen the Statue to the public.

Filmmaker Martin Scorcese, the director of movies such as "Gangs of New York" and "Goodfellas," says he will help the city raise the remaining two-million dollars. Mr. Scorcese, a New Yorker, is producing a television documentary on the monument as part of the fundraising campaign.

A date for the reopening has not yet been scheduled. But it is unlikely that future visitors will be permitted to climb the 354 steps to the top of the Statue of Liberty. Instead, they will be restricted to the base of the monument.