Having weathered the latest anti-French storm with characteristic stoicism, Lady Liberty is primping for her return to the public eye. The statue is the city’s only major landmark to remain shuttered since September 11, 2001, but recent corporate contributions aim to let the tourist masses get up close and personal with her once again.
Last Tuesday, Mayor Bloomberg and American Express chairman and CEO Kenneth I. Chenault announced a campaign to raise $5 million toward reopening the statue. AmEx, for its part, will pony up a minimum of $3 million.
Long before plastic, American Express exchanged immigrants’ gold for U.S. currency on Ellis Island, when the statue was just beginning to turn from golden to green herself. “We’ve been looking out our windows at her since she was built,” says American Express spokesperson Desiree Fish. The funds will be used to overhaul emergency-notification systems, enhance safety measures, and add exits and are being funneled through the Statue of Liberty–Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. “We’re working with architects, engineers, preservationists,” says the foundation’s president and CEO, Stephen A. Briganti. “Our early projection is $5 million, but you never know. This is a 120-year-old building.”
Queens native Martin Scorsese, reaffirming his perennial claim to the “So New York” film genre, has agreed to produce and narrate a documentary to promote the campaign. “The statue made a lasting impression on my grandparents when they first came to America,” he said at a press conference.
But despite insider predictions, Harvey Weinstein reportedly will not option the picture and release it three weeks before Oscar time.