The Today Show is broadcasting live from the Statue of Liberty's crown this morning with an exclusive scoop from Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar: For the first time since 9/11, the general public will be allowed up into Lady Liberty's diadem, starting July 4th. Officials hope the news will give a little boost to New York’s tourist industry, but really it's all worth it just to see this goofy video of NBC's morning show hosts gabbing from the crown.
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Salazar announced that for security reasons, access will be limited to guided groups of 30 visitors at a time, and "some sort of lottery system" will determine who gets to go up: "We're going to do it in a fair way. Everybody will have a chance to get up to the crown." Starting, of course, with celebrities and pundits—Today Show hosts Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira, Ann Curry and Al Roker have already chilled up there twice this week; a few days ago the National Park Service arranged for them to explore the crown in preparation for the broadcast. But the big news here is that Al Roker successfully climbed up 354 steps twice in one week.
The 30-at-a-time system will operate for two years, after which the statue will be closed down again for renovations to make access to the crown easier and safer; besides concerns about terrorism, the Parks Department has admitted that the narrow spiral staircase to the top "violates every fire code in the city of New York and the state of New York and the state of New Jersey." And the crown itself is a "firetrap" with "only one entrance, no firewalls and a several building code violations." Today Salazar promised that once the safety changes are implemented, 100,000 people a year will be able to climb to the top.