Friday, March 31, 2017

Review: A visit to the Statue of Liberty

First, let me say this: the Statue of Liberty is an amazing creation to behold in person.

Second, the National Park Service is doing its best to suck the enjoyment out of visiting the statue.

A week ago, my sister and I went to see this famous landmark. This was my second visit to this statue, which rises on an island in the middle of New York Harbor. I remain in awe of the audaciousness of the whole idea.

What was creator Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi thinking?  "I'll build a 151-foot statue, intricately designed down to tiny details, and then we'll ship all 204 tons of it across the ocean to be assembled. Hope those Americans can find a spot for it!"
Enjoy your visit to the Statue of Liberty

The statue is not the only amazing part. The pedestal, constructed in 1883-84, was the biggest mass of concrete poured in the world to that time.

You get to see the wonder of the Statue of Liberty up close when you take the National Park Service-operated boats out from New York or New Jersey to Liberty Island. There's also a nice museum inside the pedestal.

Unfortunately, the experience has some sour sides.

When we arrived at Battery Park at the southern end of Manhattan, we found a long, slow-moving line to get on  the boat. This was very cold Thursday in March -- not exactly the height of tourist season -- so I can imagine that the line could have been even longer.

Before getting on the boat, you have to go through an extensive security check. We removed our coats, jackets, watches, wallets, and belts and put them all in the bin to go through the X-ray machine (more than the usual airport check). It didn't go fast, but since it's all in the name of security, it's hard to complain.

But the next part was weird: Once we reached the island, and prepared to enter the statue, we faced another long line leading to another set of X-ray machines. This line moved even slower than the first one. The National Park Service labels this a "secondary security screening."

Really? What was the point of the first screening if they are just going to do it again? Are the first screeners just the interns and they miss a lot of stuff?

As it turns out, the second check isn't for security -- if you had bomb or gun or something like that it would have already been caught on the mainland. This second stop was to keep out food and backpacks.

Why can't you bring food in? I don't know.  Keep in mind that this was a ban on simply carrying food. If the point was to keep people from eating food, the NPS could simply post "no eating" signs like they do on neighboring Ellis Island. That would be simpler and less costly that manning X-ray machines.

Why can't you bring backpacks in?  I'm not sure, but money could be a factor. The NPS operates lockers where people can store their belongings for $2 while they go inside the statue. Multiply that by a million or so visitors a year, and you can see how operating those lockers could add up to a nice chunk of change for the NPS.


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