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Thread: Liberty Enlightening the World (Statue of Liberty)

  1. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by TLOZ Link5
    Since I've never been to Saint Louis and am in no question to make assumptions, could anyone who has been there or lives there tell me if the Gateway Arch would be pretty hard to evacuate in a worst-case scenario?
    I don't live there and have not yet been, but here is some info on a situation in which the monument was evacuated.

  2. #17
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    Thanks, Mac.

  3. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by TLOZ Link5
    Since I've never been to Saint Louis and am in no position to make assumptions, could anyone who has been there or lives there tell me if the Gateway Arch would be pretty hard to evacuate in a worst-case scenario?
    I live in St. Louis..If people were up inside the top of the arch they would pretty much be screwed in my opinion.....It depends how it would be attacked though to make a more accurate guess.

  4. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigMac
    Quote Originally Posted by TLOZ Link5
    Since I've never been to Saint Louis and am in no question to make assumptions, could anyone who has been there or lives there tell me if the Gateway Arch would be pretty hard to evacuate in a worst-case scenario?
    I don't live there and have not yet been, but here is some info on a situation in which the monument was evacuated.
    The transformer that caused the fire was on the arch grounds but not in the arch itself....It would be similar to there being a fire on the grounds around Lady liberty but not inside the monument..

  5. #20

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    Newhouse News Service
    March 11, 2004

    Online-Auction Shopper Cracks 1980s Statue of Liberty Mystery

    BY CHUCK McCUTCHEON


    A drawing of the Statue of Liberty torch shows the location of the missing "acorn."

    When Statue of Liberty enthusiast Brian Snyder recently visited eBay to look for memorabilia, he was shocked at what he found: an actual piece of the New York harbor monument, selling for $1,000.

    "I knew right off the bat" it had been pilfered, he said. "It looked real, and I thought, `This doesn't belong to this guy!"'

    So began a chain of events that ended last week with the National Park Service recovering the 4-inch, corncob-shaped item missing from the balcony encircling the flame of Lady Liberty's torch. It had disappeared almost two decades ago.

    The copper artifact apparently was swiped by a construction worker during the monument's centennial restoration in 1986, federal authorities said. The FBI investigated the theft -- as well as that of an identical missing piece -- but did not solve the crimes.

    Park Service officials said the worker's son received the object after his father died and -- unaware that it was obtained illegally -- decided to sell it on eBay, the online auction site.

    Neither Park Service officials nor Snyder would identify the would-be seller, who described himself on eBay as a Great Neck, N.Y., resident and used the alias "somethingphysical." The man did not respond to interview requests e-mailed through the site.

    No bids were received for the "Statue of Liberty pre-restoration artifact," online records show. As of Wednesday afternoon, the auction was still listed -- complete with photo -- but with a note that bidding had expired March 5.

    The auction described the piece as an "acorn," but officials said it actually is a decorative ear of corn intended by the statue's French designer to represent the United States as a "land of plenty."

    Park Service spokesman Brian Feeney said the piece is now "safely locked" in storage at the statue museum. Because of the "special circumstances" under which the seller came to possess it, a Park Service statement said, he is not expected to be charged with a crime.

    Snyder is vice president and Webmaster for the Statue of Liberty Club, an international group of some 150 serious collectors of statue-shaped trinkets. He is such a devotee that he proposed to his wife at Liberty Island -- even giving her a torch-shaped ring.

    He was suspicious of the eBay listing because there was no mention of a certificate of authenticity and the item differed greatly from souvenirs usually offered to collectors, he said. Those include tiny concrete chips from the statue's base, encased in glass and sold with the Park Service's blessing.

    "I sent (the service) an e-mail with the auction listing and a note asking, `Federal property? Stolen?"' said Snyder, a 40-year-old pharmaceutical sales representative.

    He got the object's history when he contacted the seller posing as an interested buyer.

    Snyder was pleased to hear from the Park Service that the man had agreed to relinquish the artifact. "I just wanted to see the part recovered," he said. "I didn't want to see this guy put in jail."

    Hani Durzy, a spokesman for eBay, said the company would have notified the Park Service and stopped the auction had Snyder alerted it first. The site's policy forbids posting of stolen property.

    Durzy said eBay features 20 million items for sale at any given time. "Because there are so many things on the site, we rely on a combination of our own proactive searching ... to ensure that something adheres to our policy, as well as community vigilance," he said.

    Copyright 2004 Newhouse News Service

  6. #21

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    CNN
    March 25, 2004

    Statue of Liberty to reopen soon, officials say

    From Mike Ahlers
    CNN Washington Bureau

    The Statue of Liberty, which has been closed to visitors since the September 11, 2001, attacks, will be reopened shortly, national park officials told Congress on Thursday.

    Park officials, testifying at a hearing on Capitol Hill, declined to give specifics, saying they did not want to usurp the authority of Interior Secretary Gale Norton, who will make the official announcement.

    But under questioning from lawmakers, National Park Service Deputy Director Don Murphy said the reopening is imminent.

    He said a $7 million contribution from the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation has helped security, health and safety enhancements at the site.

    Pressed for a date, Murphy said, "Let me say candidly the reopening of the statue is really imminent. We've worked very hard. The plan is in the secretary's office. They're working on it almost as we speak, and we're going to be making an announcement in that regard sometime soon."

    Murphy said it will cost $1.4 million to keep the statue open through fiscal 2005.

    The site's grounds were closed after the attacks but have since reopened.

    Copyright 2004 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.

  7. #22

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    New York Daily News
    March 30, 2004

    Lucky Lady: Statue of Liberty to reopen in late July

    The Associated Press

    The Statue of Liberty, closed immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, will reopen to the public in late July, Secretary of Interior Gale Norton said Tuesday.

    Pledges of $7 million in donations, including a $100,000 gift from Mayor Bloomberg, will finance upgrades that were necessary at the national monument before it could be reopened.

    Currently, tourists can visit Liberty Island but are not allowed inside the 151-foot statue in New York Harbor.

    “Safety of our citizens and preservation of the statue are our main goals,” said Norton, acknowledging that the 118-year-old statue was “an attractive terrorist target.”

    Bloomberg, who joined Norton at a news conference on the island, said he was “proud to have played such a small role” in getting the statue available to the public once again.

    According to Norton, an examination of the national monument revealed potential for fire problems and a lack of exits. Screening procedures, much like those at airports, and a reservation system to reduce long lines will be implemented once the monument reopens, Norton said.

    She said after the upgrades are completed, the public will be allowed to enjoy the panoramic view from the statue’s observation deck at the top of its pedestal, about 16 stories above ground. They will not be allowed into the crown, reached via narrow and winding stairs, because it cannot accommodate large numbers of tourists and does not meet local fire, building or safety codes.

    The island was closed for 100 days after Sept. 11, 2001. Airport-type metal detectors were installed to screen visitors boarding the ferry from lower Manhattan, and the island was then reopened in December 2001. But the statue itself has remained closed.

    Since the terrorist attacks, officials have said the number of visitors to Liberty Island has dropped by 40 percent. Still, more than 4 million people have visited since then.

    The upgrade project is being overseen by the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation.

    Copyright 2004 Daily News, L.P.

  8. #23

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    New York Times
    March 30, 2004

    Statue of Liberty to Be Reopened This Summer

    By KIRK SEMPLE


    Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said the reopening of the Statue of Liberty this summer would encourage tourism in Lower Manhattan.

    The Statue of Liberty, shuttered since the terrorist strikes on Sept. 11, 2001, will likely reopen to visitors sometime this summer, Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton said today.

    Ms. Norton predicted that the monument, which stands on an island in New York Harbor within view of the World Trade Center site, would reopen in four months.

    The site was closed along with other iconic national monuments following the Sept. 11 attacks, though it remained closed well after the Washington Monument, the Liberty Bell pavilion in Philadelphia, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and other popular tourist destinations had opened.

    Ms. Norton, speaking on two morning television programs today, said the Statue of Liberty has undergone an overhaul to help protect it from terrorist attacks and correct problems related to visitor access and fire safety. "There's lots of construction to be done," she said on the NBC News program "Today."

    The government has already spent about $16 million on renovations, she said on the CBS News "Early Show," adding, "And we still have a ways to go."

    Visitors will be able to climb only as high as the observation deck, at the top of the 154-foot granite pedestal on which the statue stands, Ms. Norton said. Access to the crown will remain off limits, though the interior secretary suggested it may reopen to the public at some time in the future.

    "We know that the things that really mean so much to us about the statue are the views of the statue that people have treasured for generations," she said on the "Early Show." "We want to make sure that that is well-protected."

    In addition, the National Park Service is instituting a system of reservations to prevent long lines, and is creating a new exit from the base to facilitate evacuations, Ms. Norton said.

    The island was reopened in December 2001 after metal detectors were installed to screen visitors boarding the ferry from lower Manhattan, but the statue remained closed.

    Until its closing, the statue, which is managed by the National Park Service, received an average of 6 million visitors a year, the service said. The United Nations declared the monument a World Heritage Site in 1984.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  9. #24

  10. #25
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    I feel sorry for the tourists this summer...Most of them make the statue of liberty their primary destination. but what is the purpose to just walk inside the observations deck anyway? :x

    I don't find being on the top of the head special my self, but I did it for the experience anyway and I bet lot of people feel the same way.

  11. #26

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    New York Newsday
    March 30, 2004

    Statue of Liberty to reopen with limits

    By Glenn Thrush

    Lady Liberty is now the Statue of Limitations.

    For the first time since the 2001 terrorist attacks, the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty will be open to visitors, thanks to $7 million in private donations -- $100,000 from Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

    But the National Parks Service, which plans to relax restrictions by the end of July, may never allow the public back into copper-clad statue itself, according to Interior Secretary Gale Norton.

    Statue designer Frederic Auguste Bartholdi "never intended visitors to the inside of Lady Liberty the stairs were designed for access by a lightkeeper and by maintenance," Norton said during a windswept ceremony at the monument Tuesday. "There are some real challenges to having visitors go up into the area of the crown."

    The secretary didn't entirely rule out greater access in the future, but said Liberty's vulnerability to attack -- as evidenced by shrapnel damage caused by German sabotage of a Jersey City arms depot in 1916 -- made such a decision "difficult."

    The island reopened two months after the attacks and has attracted four million tourists since, but the public has been limited to admiring the monument from other parts of the park.

    The private donations, combined with $19.6 million in federal funding over the last two years, paid for beefed-up security, installation of reinforced stairwells and fire prevention equipment and for an evacuation plan created in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security.

    The added security at the statue was apparent Tuesday, in the form of machine-gun toting guards, bomb-sniffing dogs and metal detectors.

    Tuesday's announcement wasn't without controversy.

    Local Democrats, including Sen. Charles Schumer, blasted the plan, said the Bush administration should have paid for the reopening without the use of private funds.

    Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, a Manhattan Democrat, said, "It has to be asked why it took two and a half years after 9/11 and just months before the GOP convention in New York, and why was the city forced to resort to in essence a bake sale to raise the money."

    Bloomberg defended the fund-raising campaign, saying, "The Statue of Liberty stands as a symbol... Raising private money lets us do something that we all in our hearts know is right."

    Copyright 2004 Newsday, Inc.

  12. #27

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    This sucks, When I come to NY next week I wanted to go into The Statue of Liberty. I wanted to go into the Torch....really sucks.

  13. #28

  14. #29

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    New York Times
    April 4, 2004

    Extra Fund-Raising Put Off Statue of Liberty Reopening

    By MIKE McINTIRE


    The Statue of Liberty has been off limits to visitors since 9/11.

    On Tuesday, against the dramatic backdrop of New York Harbor, federal and city officials announced that the Statue of Liberty would be partially opened to visitors this summer, nearly three years after the Sept. 11 attacks forced it to shut for security concerns.

    Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton said a private campaign to raise $7 million by having Americans send in Folgers coffee can lids and charge everyday expenses to their American Express cards had helped make it possible, at long last, to reopen the statue's base. Wal-Mart had helped, average citizens had mailed in checks, and even Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg had pitched in $100,000 of his own money.

    As Folgers had put it, every dollar was "necessary to reopen one of America's most cherished landmarks."

    But interviews with two dozen current and former federal officials, fund-raisers and major donors, as well as a review of documents from the nonprofit foundation that is raising the money, show that the statue, the world's most recognizable symbol of freedom, could have been opened much earlier.

    Millions of dollars held by the nonprofit Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation have long been available for the monument's emergency needs but went unspent. The National Park Service, which is responsible for the landmark, never asked Congress to provide the $2.3 million that they initially estimated was needed to do the work.

    The Park Service wavered for at least a year on whether it even wanted to reopen the statue, then decided to turn the task over to the foundation. And once the foundation decided not to dig into its $30 million endowment and instead mount a separate fund-raising campaign, its goal steadily rose to $7 million as still more months went by.

    Even now, more than two and a half years after the attacks that shut the statue, visitors will still not be able to go up to the crown, as they did in the past, because of the Park Service's continuing security concerns. As for the $7 million in public donations, it is unclear how much will be spent on safety improvements to open the base, as opposed to optional projects added later, such as a glass portal for viewing the inside of the statue.

    The foundation, while choosing not to provide enough endowment money for the emergency exits and upgraded fire system necessary for the statue's reopening, at the same time paid $345,000 to its president, far more than is paid to chief executives at nonprofit foundations that support other parks. At the same time, risky investments contributed to a nearly $10 million drop in the value of its assets in the last two fiscal years.

    Meanwhile, no other high-risk national landmark remains closed, including the Washington Monument and Empire State Building, leaving the statue alone as a shuttered symbol of the country's vulnerability to terrorists.

    The reasons lie with the two main entities charged with protecting the statue, according to documents and interviews. The Park Service showed a pattern of inertia and disengagement from the task at hand. The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, which some believe should have been dissolved years ago after fulfilling its intended mission to restore the landmark, showed more interest in preserving its considerable assets than in supporting the statue, even in the midst of a crisis.

    Even some of those who supported the foundation's earlier campaigns and find value in public-private partnerships now question the relationship between the Park Service and the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation.

    Donald P. Hodel, a Republican who was secretary of the interior during the major restoration of the statue during the 1980's, said in an interview that he had watched as the Park Service had "very much fallen under the sway of the foundation." He said he disagreed with the foundation's decision to raise more money instead of spending what it already had.

    "I think it's improper," said Mr. Hodel, who in recent years was involved with another nonprofit group that abandoned an effort to raise money for the statue after the group was sued by the foundation for trademark infringement. "It is the creation of an endowed entity, which by keeping its funds to itself is free to pay its employees in perpetuity, whether or not it does anything for the statue."

    The Park Service's approach also does not sit well with some members of Congress who have expressed concerns that the statue's closing was exploited to raise money, and argue that the responsibility for public safety improvements rests with the government.

    "I resent the commercialization of it, pretending that we have to go begging corporations for money, when there has been more than enough money all along," said Representative Maurice Hinchey of New York, a Democratic member of the House subcommittee that oversees financing for the Park Service. "As an American citizen, I don't want the Statue of Liberty co-opted by Wal-Mart."

    Officials at the foundation and the Park Service defended their roles. Stephen A. Briganti, the foundation president, said repeatedly in an interview that it would not be prudent to withdraw the money from the endowment, which he said should be "saved for the future." He also insisted that reopening the statue was not slowed because of money, but rather by the lengthy process required to study what needs to be done, agree on a plan and get it approved by the Park Service.

    Edie Shean-Hammond, the spokeswoman for the National Park Service Northeast Region, said her agency sought help from the foundation because "it's a matter of tradition, the way we do business."

    While allowing that "we may move a little too slowly for the American public," she said there was no reason to rush.

    "You've got to realize that we're really a very, very conservative agency," Ms. Shean-Hammond said. "The parks that we manage - the Statue of Liberty, Yellowstone - they will all be here 500, 700 years from now. These decisions cannot be made in a New York minute."

    Reliance on Private Support

    The concept of using private donations to help maintain public spaces is neither new nor unique to the Statue of Liberty. Indeed, it was a nationwide fund-raising effort by the publisher Joseph Pulitzer in 1885 that financed construction of the pedestal on which the statue stands.

    The practice blossomed during the Reagan administration, which urged greater use of public-private partnerships throughout the government. Today, private groups contribute a total of about $40 million a year to support 347, or 90 percent, of the country's national parks.

    Held up as a model when it was established in 1982, the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, led at the time by Lee A. Iacocca, then the chairman of Chrysler, was given the mission of raising money necessary to refurbish the statue after years of neglect.

    More than $300 million was raised from individual and corporate contributions, enough to fix up the statue in time for a gala reopening on July 4, 1986, and to renovate much of Ellis Island and establish a $20 million endowment "to restore, preserve and protect" the monument in the future.

    After its mission was completed, the fate of the foundation and its endowment was unclear. Mr. Hodel said that he did not recall specific discussions, but that in hindsight, "It's clear to me that, in some fashion, the foundation should have been wound down."

    Mr. Briganti, who directed the foundation's fund-raising during the restoration campaign and became president after the 1986 reopening, acknowledged that the foundation "was thinking of winding itself down." But that changed, he said, after the Park Service began asking it to take on management of new projects.

    The foundation's role began to shift in the 1990's away from a passive financing source to one that was more active in the daily operations of the monument.

    "When we first started this, we gave grants to the Park Service," Mr. Briganti said in a recent interview at the foundation's Madison Avenue office. "Then the Park Service asked us to do all the contracting. I was hesitant at first because I didn't think we were qualified."

    One of his biggest projects was the creation of a $22.5 million American Family Immigration History Center, where people can search computerized archives of Ellis Island for information on ancestors. The foundation restored more buildings on Ellis Island, expanded the oral history studio and children's visitor center, operates a "living theater" program and publishes curriculum guides for teachers. The projects have become a critical resource for immigration and genealogical research, and the island itself has been transformed into a major destination for tourists and students.

    Meanwhile, as the foundation focused on its own programs, using the bulk of its budget for them, little work was done on a number of basic infrastructure problems at the statue, such as a lack of emergency exits, sprinkler systems and lighting, which the Park Service now cites as reasons for keeping the statue closed.

    "These issues were well known for years, but everyone worked around them," said a senior Park Service official in New York, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "We screwed up and let everything sit there until it reached a boiling point after 9/11."

    Ms. Shean-Hammond said that before Sept. 11, the Park Service had begun assessing safety improvements that were needed. They were not completed before the attacks.

    Expenses and Salaries Grow

    As the foundation's activities have grown, so have its expenses. Staff salaries doubled to $2.1 million from 1997 to 2002, and Mr. Briganti's compensation increased to $345,000 from $214,000.. One other executive on his staff makes more than $200,000, while three others make more than $100,000.

    The Golden Gate National Parks Association, which gave more money to the Park Service than any other group in 2001, pays its executive director $188,300.

    Mr. Briganti, 62 and a career fund-raiser, said he did not believe his pay was unusually high, and he cited a Chronicle of Philanthropy survey last year that he said placed his salary "in the middle" of chief executives at 235 nonprofit organizations.

    His salary is actually higher than the $285,000 median established by the survey, which included the 50 wealthiest foundations, each with assets of $200 million to $24 billion. By comparison, the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation reported net assets last year of $38 million.

    Mr. Briganti said his pay was set by a compensation committee of the 20-member board, and that he was not involved in its deliberations. The full board, heavily made up of retired businessmen and former federal officials, some living in Texas, California and Virginia, meets twice a year.

    Attempts to speak with William F. May, 87, the board's chairman, were unsuccessful. Peg Zitko, a spokeswoman for the foundation, said that "Mr. May doesn't really do media interviews," and that Mr. Briganti generally speaks for the foundation.

    Mr. Briganti said the foundation spent an average of $1 million a year from interest earned on the endowment for Park Service projects. Private donations and income from programs support all of the foundation's other expenses, of $5 million to $10 million a year.

    The foundation's combined endowment and general fund shrank to $37.7 million last year, from $51 million in 2001, largely because of poorly performing investments.

    In 2001, the foundation retained new asset managers, who proceeded to shift $9.5 million out of relatively safe fixed-income investments into stock mutual funds. Within a year, those investments lost half their value, as did another $14.6 million in common stocks the foundation had bought earlier.

    The aggressive investments would appear to be at odds with Mr. Briganti's protective stance toward the endowment.

    By his own account, when the Park Service came looking for help last year to finance the reopening of the statue, he did not seriously consider dipping deeply into it.

    Nothing restricts the foundation legally from doing so and, in fact, its bylaws would seem to explicitly authorize it. They state that in addition to the investment income from its donations, the foundation can spend the "principal thereof" to fulfill its mandate to "restore, preserve and protect the Statue of Liberty National Monument."

    Asked why the foundation would not use its endowment to pay for the work required to reopen, given the extraordinary circumstances, Mr. Briganti expressed a strong philosophical aversion to using the principal under almost any circumstance.

    "Technically the endowment is unrestricted, but we don't see it that way," he said. "If you're of a mind that the endowment is for the future, you wouldn't want to invade the principal."

    John B. Turbidy, a member of the foundation's board since 1982, expressed a similar view.

    "Those funds were not intended to support major undertakings like the reopening of the statue," said Mr. Turbidy, a financial executive. "This is the sort of thing that we would normally do a fund-raising campaign for."

    A Request for Help

    While seeking federal funds to renovate bathhouses and sewers at other national parks, the Park Service did not turn to Congress for the money to reopen the statue. It also did not reach out to the foundation for help until the middle of 2003.

    Earlier, the Park Service did complete, on its own, some security improvements that allowed the public to return to the grounds of Ellis Island and Liberty Island by the end of 2001. Interior Secretary Norton said last week that the federal government had spent $19.6 million so far, mostly on security checkpoints for tourists boarding boats to the islands.

    Meanwhile, the number of visitors to Liberty Island dropped to 1.8 million last year from 2.7 million in the first nine months of 2001. And no work was started on a project that foundation and Park Service officials say is most needed: construction of an additional stairway to allow visitors to descend from the statue's base to the ground in an emergency. The statue sits atop an old fort that has only one exit.

    The Park Service official in New York said there was no progress on that part of the project during 2002, and Mr. Briganti said he, too, detected little sense of urgency during his periodic conversations with the Park Service. "They did not know whether they wanted to reopen it or not," he said.

    Ms. Shean-Hammond said the Park Service had completed the work that it "felt was necessary to do the government's job, to allow people to experience the island, the park, if you will."

    "In terms of priorities,'' she said, "we needed to see how the visits were going in the current climate of war and terror, to see if we could accommodate allowing people back into the base."

    The Park Service eventually asked the foundation to provide $800,000 from its endowment toward a preliminary $2.3 million plan for fire safety upgrades and two emergency staircases, according to a memorandum of agreement drawn up last summer. But the foundation would agree only to provide the endowment money in two $400,000 installments, paid over two years, and finance the rest with fund-raising and concession fees from tourists.

    The memorandum said the foundation would be "solely responsible" for design and construction work, and it required that "any contributions received by the National Park Service or any other organization" be directed to the foundation.

    That last provision discouraged at least one donation. William D. Fugazy, a travel and limousine executive who was chairman of the New York State Statue of Liberty Commission in the 1980's, said he offered to arrange a contribution from a wealthy friend, "in excess of $1 million," to the Park Service to help reopen the statue. Mr. Fugazy's account was confirmed by a Park Service official.

    But when he was told that any donations had to be made to the foundation, he said he and his friend decided not to make a contribution after a conversation with Mr. Briganti.

    "He insisted that he wanted to take control of it, so we decided not to do it," Mr. Fugazy said.

    Mr. Briganti declined to comment.

    By September, the foundation had begun a sophisticated campaign, backed by corporate sponsors, to raise $5 million - double what the Park Service had estimated the cost of the work to be. Mr. Briganti said the new figure reflected updated cost projections, but he did not provide details.

    With the country music singer Naomi Judd and new sponsors like The Daily News on board, the foundation exceeded its $5 million fund-raising goal by February. But it was then announced that the cost of the project had risen again, this time to $7 million, so the drive was extended.

    At least part of the additional expense appears geared toward addressing the public's disappointment over not being allowed into the statue itself: the plan calls for a glass ceiling to allow visitors to look up into the statue.

    Last month, questions from the news media and members of Congress began to arise, and a Park Service official suddenly announced at a Congressional hearing on March 25 that the statue's reopening was imminent.

    Five days later, on Tuesday, officials gathered in New York to announce the news. The event was so hastily arranged that most of the invited guests, including Mayor Bloomberg, were given only 24 hours' notice, and one congressman said he was called by the Park Service at 10 p.m. the night before.

    Taking his turn at the lectern during the announcement, Mr. Bloomberg praised the fund-raising drive as Mr. Briganti and Ms. Norton, standing behind him, smiled.

    "I really am a believer that the private sector has to help in things the government doesn't have the money for," the mayor said.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  15. #30

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    April 5, 2004

    U.S. Is Investigating Use of Donors' Gifts to Statue of Liberty

    By MIKE McINTIRE


    Gale A. Norton, the secretary of the interior, announced last week that the base of the Statue of Liberty would reopen this summer. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, left, and Stephen A. Briganti, president of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, also attended the news conference.

    Federal investigators have begun an inquiry into the National Park Service's dealings with a nonprofit foundation it relied on to handle the reopening of the Statue of Liberty, according to a government official.

    The inspector general of the Interior Department, which oversees the Park Service, is investigating how the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation spent donations it raised for projects at the monument and whether it followed federal guidelines on competitive bidding for certain contracts, the official said.

    The inquiry, which the official said had begun within the last two weeks, will also explore why the foundation did not spend more of the money it already had for the reopening, instead of mounting a separate fund-raising campaign that has collected nearly $7 million from corporations, the public and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who contributed $100,000 of his own money.

    "We want to know, why do you have to solicit $100,000 from Mike Bloomberg when you're sitting on $30 million?" said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

    Officials at the foundation and the Park Service did not respond to messages seeking comment yesterday.

    The New York Times reported yesterday that delays by the Park Service and reluctance by the foundation to spend its money have prevented the statue's reopening, two and half years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attack forced the closing of major American landmarks. Other sites, including the Washington Monument and the public rooms of the White House, have reopened.

    Officials at the foundation and the Park Service defended their roles in interviews for that article. The foundation's president, Stephen A. Briganti, insisted that the reopening of the statue was not slowed because of money, but because plans had not been put into place. He said it was the foundation's policy not to use its endowment to pay for major projects.

    The Park Service said that it traditionally turns to the foundation for help with projects at the monument, and it defended its pace on the reopening as prudent.

    Gale A. Norton, secretary of the interior, announced last week that public access to the statue's base, which houses a museum, is expected to resume this summer, after safety improvements are put in place by the foundation. But visitors will no longer be allowed to enter the statue and ascend the spiral stairs to its crown, despite the foundation's claims that donations would be used to "reopen Lady Liberty."

    The inspector general's investigation is not the first to raise questions about the foundation's activities or the broader issue of the Park Service's reliance on private groups to help manage the country's 385 national parks.

    In 1986, four years after the foundation was created to raise money to restore the statue and Ellis Island after years of neglect, Congress investigated accusations of conflicts of interest, overspending and mismanagement on the part of foundation officials. Claims of financial impropriety were not proved, although a report on the investigation said it had found evidence of some administrative problems.

    After completing the restoration by the late 1980's and establishing a $20 million endowment, the foundation defied the expectations of some at the time that it would dissolve and transfer its money to the Park Service. Instead, it took on new projects, including setting up a genealogy research center on Ellis Island, and its endowment grew to more than $30 million, much larger than those of any of the nonprofit groups that support 347 other national parks.

    In 2001, the groups together contributed $47 million to the parks and retained assets totaling about $200 million. But aside from basic information provided in federal tax returns, details of how the groups handle their finances are often unavailable to the public - and, sometimes, even to the Park Service.

    Last year, the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, concluded in a report that the Park Service "needs to better manage the increasing role" of its nonprofit partners. The accounting office found that the Park Service lacked even "basic management information" about how much money the groups were raising and how it was being spent.

    What is more, the report said, the failure to track such data seemed deliberate.

    "Park Service and nonprofit officials expressed concern that collecting and reporting detailed information on the amount of nonprofit financial contributions made to parks could lead to offsetting reductions in Congressional appropriations made available to the agency," the report said.

    In the case of reopening the Statue of Liberty, some members of Congress have said there would most likely have been little resistance to providing money to complete the work. The needed improvements, mainly an additional staircase to use in emergencies and upgrades to fire safety systems, were initially expected to cost $2.3 million.

    The Park Service, which Secretary Norton said has spent $19.6 million over the last two years on other safety improvements at the landmark, reopened access to the grounds of Liberty Island in December 2001. But it then delayed a decision on whether to reopen the statue's base for at least a year, eventually deciding in mid-2003 not to seek federal funding and, instead, turn the project over to the foundation.

    The foundation, despite having more than $30 million in its endowment for work related to the statue and Ellis Island, began a $5 million fund-raising drive in September. The goal of the campaign has since climbed to $7 million, and construction of the safety upgrades had not begun as of last week.

    One area of inquiry that the official said the inspector general's office is focusing on is how the foundation has spent the private donations it raised on the monument's behalf, and whether work performed on projects adhered to competitive bidding requirements.

    In an interview last week, Mr. Briganti said formal competitive bids were sought for construction work, but generally not for hiring professionals, like architects or designers. The foundation's tax returns from 1997 to 2002 show that it has tended to stay with the same design consultants, lawyers and computer software firms over the years.

    In 2001 and 2002, the foundation paid a law firm $279,000 for legal work, the tax returns show. It is unclear what the work entailed. However, in 2002, the same firm represented the foundation in a lawsuit against another nonprofit group, Friends of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Foundation, which had tried to raise donations for the monument.

    The suit claimed trademark infringement by the other group, which, according to the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, was using a name and logo similar to its own. The case was closed as of last year; details of how it was concluded were not available yesterday.

    The General Accounting Office has been asked to start its own review of the campaign to reopen the statue. Yesterday, Representative Anthony D. Weiner, a New York Democrat, released a letter asking General Accounting Office investigators to determine whether the Park Service's reliance on the foundation broke any laws and why the statue remains closed.

    "Thousands of generous private donors have sent tens of millions of dollars to the foundation," Mr. Weiner said, "and they have every right to ask, 'What happened to my money?' "

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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