|Tuesday, Jul 2, 2013|
On July 4, the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island will reopen to the public for the first time since Hurricane Sandy hit the New York metropolitan area on October 29, 2012.
Beginning at 8:30 A.M., visitors will board Statue Cruises ferries at Battery Park in lower Manhattan and at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey. New York visitors will land at the newly rebuilt work dock, while New Jersey visitors will dock at a temporary barge near the main visitor dock, which is undergoing repairs. Ferries will not land at Ellis Island, which remains closed at this time.
“Liberty Island is again ready for visitors,” said Dave Luchsinger, superintendent of Statue of Liberty National Monument. “Though visitors have not been on Liberty Island in months, our staff, contractors and partners have been working tirelessly to get the park ready for the reopening. It is a testament to their dedication and perseverance that we are opening on July 4.”
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis and Luchsinger will welcome visitors at a 10:30 A.M. reopening ceremony along with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. U.S. Park Police Color Guard will begin the ceremony. The Third United States Infantry Regiment (the Old Guard) will perform musical selections . West Point vocalist MaryKay Messenger will sing the national anthem, while actor/singer Dominic Chianese (The Sopranos) will close the ceremony by singing “God Bless America.”
The reopening of the Statue of Liberty has inspired people around the world. Tickets to the pedestal and the crown have sold briskly not just for re-opening day but for the entire summer.
Work will continue at Liberty Island after the reopening. Walkways are largely completed but need to be finished. Repairs to the main visitor dock will take place in the fall.
The exhibit area in the pedestal is being refurbished now for the first time since the beginning of renovation work in 2011. Artifacts include original working models of the Statue of Liberty by sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, original armature bars designed by engineer Gustave Eiffel and items showing Lady Liberty in material culture, such as souvenirs. Artifacts were moved to the second floor of the historic Kitchen and Laundry Building on Ellis Island, where they sat during the renovation, hurricane and restoration. The exhibit area inside the pedestal did not flood during or after the storm.
“We had reopened the Statue to visitors just the day before,” recalled Luchsinger, who lived at Liberty Island with his wife before the storm. “For a year we had been reconfiguring the interior of the pedestal to enhance life safety issues. Visitors had one day to enjoy it before the storm shut us down. So we are happy that the public can finally enjoy these improvements.”
Liberty and Ellis Islands, located in New York Harbor, were covered by the storm surge in October. About 75% of Liberty Island was flooded, severely damaging the electrical, sewage and telephone systems. Visitor service areas, such as the Information Center and the food court, were heavily damaged as well. The visitor dock suffered damage and the work dock was a total loss. Staff offices and living quarters on the island saw substantial damage; some buildings may not survive. Floodwaters never reached the Statue, pedestal or historic Fort Wood, the star-shaped fort below the pedestal.
“We have been focusing all of our energy on getting Liberty Island reopened by July 4,” said Luchsinger. “After reopening the Statue, we can devote more attention to Ellis so that we can make it safe for visitors and reopen it as soon as we can.”
Ellis Island, which is flatter than Liberty, suffered more extensive flooding damage to its infrastructure, which was located in basements of the historic buildings. The island will remain closed for some time. While artifact and archival collections were not damaged, the loss of climate controlled conditions in the Main Immigration Building left the collections in danger. They were moved to a climate-controlled museum storage facility in Maryland for safekeeping until the island is ready for their return.
With Ellis, the goal is not only to reopen quickly but also to rebuild in a smart, sustainable manner. “We need to do more than fix what’s broken,” said Luchsinger. “We need to protect it from future storms of this magnitude so that it is safe from rising floodwaters.” Planning has already begun, but a timeline is not yet available for when Ellis Island will reopen.
National parks contribute significantly to the nation’s economy. “Across the country, our national parks are economic engines for local communities, with visitor spending providing a $30 billion benefit to the economy,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. An NPS annual report released in February showed that 3.7 million people visited the park in 2011, generating $174 million in economic activity and supporting 2,218 jobs. “By moving forward quickly with the repairs at the Statue of Liberty, we are giving a boost to communities here in New York who have been so badly hurt by Hurricane Sandy.”