Friday, Jul 19, 2013
When Dave Crotty accepted the position of acting chief of maintenance at Statue of Liberty National Monument last December, there was no working electrical, sewage or phone system on Liberty Island. The visitor ferry dock was damaged and the work dock was completely destroyed. Walkways lay stripped of brickwork and railings. On Ellis Island, also part of the same park, staff worked at folding tables using computers run on generators.
That is how Hurricane Sandy left the park after October 29, 2012. Eight months later, Crotty—who was officially named chief of maintenance at the park in June—is pleased but not content. “It’s a step in the right direction,” he said, “with a lot more work to get done.”
Crotty describes what he saw at the park the day after the storm with one word: “Devastation.” He, along with Superintendent David Luchsinger and Buildings and Utilities Foreman Frank Cook, were the first three people to visit the park, one day after a storm surge had covered 75% of Liberty Island and all of Ellis Island. “Cars were tossed around. Timbers and pilings were piled up. The docks at the Statue were gone. Equipment was gone.” Luckily, the Statue itself suffered no damage. The three men had one hour on Liberty Island to shut down emergency generators and secure the island. Thus began a cleanup and restoration operation that continues at the national monument to this day.
To get safety and stabilization efforts underway he called several NPS friends he met as a graduate and, later, as a mentor of the Facility Managers Leaders Program, an intense year-long course sponsored by Epply Institute and Indiana University. The program includes detail assignments at other national parks. In the early months after the storm, Crotty picked up his cell phone to borrow vehicles, ATVs and trucks from other parks to restore basic park services at Ellis and Liberty Islands.
Preparing Liberty Island for its July 4 reopening required the new chief to work with a multi-level team with employees from the park, Denver Service Center, the Northeast Regional Office, national headquarters in Washington, D.C. and the Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration. “Opening Liberty was a team effort,” Crotty stated, “with everyone working together.” Restoring basic utilities had its own drama, including a weekend spent on the island less than two weeks before the reopening, when the electric power system failed just as power was being restored to Liberty Island. By July 4, operations ran so smoothly most visitors did not notice how much the storm had incapacitated the park only days before.
While Liberty Island is not back to full capacity, thousands of visitors can once again visit. Today, Crotty supervises the facilities division while it begins repairs to Ellis Island, which suffered more damage to its infrastructure than Liberty Island. “Ellis is basically a mechanical challenge,” he observed. “The main task is getting the infrastructure back where it’s not going to get flooded,” as it was during the storm. Planners in and out of the NPS are deciding how to solve that challenge. The park has not yet announced a date for reopening Ellis Island.
While his new job has already offered plenty of challenges, Crotty enjoys seeing the obscure aspects of a national park recognized all over the world. “I go where no one goes,” he said, “like the torch, where visitors haven’t gone since 1916, or the actual structure of the Statue. It’s still an interesting and special place.”
Long before the hurricane, Crotty already knew park staff and resources quite well. From 2007 to 2012 he served as the Statue’s deputy chief of facilities and facility operations specialist, selecting work assignments for a staff of two dozen employees. He supervised daily operations, scopes of work and cost estimates for parkwide projects up to half a million dollars. In 2012 he coordinated a major life safety project for the pedestal area of the Statue of Liberty, a $30 million project which was all but completed when the storm hit. In fact, the Statue had reopened to the public the day before Hurricane Sandy hit.
After earning his bachelor’s degree in 1988 in architectural technology from the New York Institute of Technology, Crotty returned to his home state of New Jersey to work for an architectural firm. From 1991 to 2007, he served as an architect technician at Gateway National Recreation Area’s Sandy Hook Unit until taking the deputy chief position at the Statue. Yet even as a chief of facilities, he maintains the outlook of a student as well: “There’s a lot to learn and I’m still learning every day.”