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Scorsese producing Statue of Liberty film

Documentary will help raise funds for statue's reopening

The Statue of Liberty has been closed since the attacks of September 11, 2001.
The Statue of Liberty has been closed since the attacks of September 11, 2001.

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Oscar-nominated director Martin Scorsese will produce and narrate a television documentary on the Statue of Liberty as part of a fund-raising campaign to allow it to reopen with new security measures in place, he announced Tuesday.

The filmmaker, speaking to reporters at the edge of New York Harbor with the statue in the background, said the show would be broadcast January 15 on the History Channel.

The Statue of Liberty National Monument, a 58-acre island in the harbor, was closed after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Liberty Island was reopened in December 2001 after metal detectors were installed to screen visitors boarding the ferry from Lower Manhattan, but the statue itself has remained closed.

The federal government has spent millions of dollars on upgrades, but about $5 million in work remains before visitors can walk the steps inside the 151-foot-tall statue.

The statue was a gift from France to commemorate the U.S. centennial in 1876. It arrived nine years later and was dedicated October 28, 1886.

It will not be clear how high visitors will be allowed to climb until security measures are in place, said Stephen Briganti, president of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, which is overseeing the project.

American Express Co. pledged at least $3 million to the foundation Tuesday.

Planned upgrades to the statue include improved fire-control and emergency measures, such as more exits.

Once the security improvements are made, the National Park Service will ask the secretary of the interior for permission to reopen the statue.

No timetable has been set. Briganti said officials are hopeful for "sometime in 2004, but we've learned not to make promises when it comes to historic restoration."

Martin Scorsese, left, and American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault speak at a news conference Tuesday.
Martin Scorsese, left, and American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault speak at a news conference Tuesday.

Scorsese said he "had an immediate emotional response" when he was asked to create the documentary.

He said his Italian ancestors sailed past the statue on their way to Ellis Island, and he hoped his documentary would be "a reminder and a promise" of America's democracy.

Scorsese was joined by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who invoked Lady Liberty's symbolism.

"Many of America's and New York's sons and daughters are around the world fighting for the freedoms that the Statue of Liberty stands for," Bloomberg said.

"They're continuing a war that started only a few blocks from here. The reopening of the Statue of Liberty is another way to show that we are going to win the war and that New York will always remain the world's second home."

Since the terrorist attacks, officials said, the number of visitors to Liberty Island has dropped by 40 percent.

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