In a celebration of the Fourth of July, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today joined New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, and other dignitaries to reopen the Statue of Liberty to the public for the first time since it was severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy last October.
"It is hard to imagine a more appropriate or powerful way to commemorate our nation's founding than to reopen the Statue of Liberty, which is a symbol throughout the world of the freedom America cherishes," Jewell said. "Today, Lady Liberty also stands as a sign of the resilience of the region -- an area so badly battered by Hurricane Sandy nine months ago, but that is on the rebound thanks to the sacrifices and dedication of so many people."
"Lady Liberty and her welcome to all who yearn to breathe free are at the heart of what America is all about," said Bloomberg. "Thanks to the hard work of parks workers from around the country, this national treasure is open once again. We've not only repaired damage from Sandy, but we've also taken steps to protect Liberty Island from major storms in the future -- just as we're doing in the rest of our city, too."
The national park serves as a huge economic engine for the community. In 2011, a total of 3.7 million visitors to the Statue of Liberty contributed $174 million to the New York area economy and supported more than 2,200 jobs. Director Jarvis cited the importance of re-opening the Statue to the local economies, which were badly hurt by the storm.
"Across the country, our national parks help drive local economies, with visitor spending providing a $30 billion boost to the national economy in 2011," he said. "The National Park Service, our partners, and construction crews have been working around the clock to get this tourism magnet back in business to attract visitors, create jobs and help revitalize the tourism economy."
On October 29, 2012, flood waters from Hurricane Sandy covered approximately 75 percent of Liberty Island and all of Ellis Island. While the Statue itself escaped unscathed, wind and flooding from the storm destroyed most of the critical infrastructure on both islands, including electrical, water, sewage, HVAC systems, phone systems, security systems, and radio equipment. Both the main visitor dock and the service dock on Liberty Island were severely damaged. The perimeter walkway and railings around Liberty Island were also destroyed. Visitor security screening facilities at Battery Park in lower Manhattan and Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey, were completely crippled.
After the storm, more than 1,000 Interior employees from Alaska to Puerto Rico came to the area to help national parks damaged by the hurricane. They stabilized water-soaked buildings and addressed dangerous conditions, including removing fallen trees and debris and undertaking mold mitigation.
Interior estimates that it will cost $77 million to repair and restore Liberty and Ellis Islands, including replacement of the primary and secondary heating and cooling systems, two new boilers and relocation of critical equipment to protect it from future storms.
"National parks like ours belong to the whole nation, but Lady Liberty really speaks to the whole world. She inspires lovers of freedom on every continent," said Dave Luchsinger, superintendent of Statue of Liberty National Monument. "We are delighted to reopen Liberty Island in time for our nation's birthday."
During the closure, NPS staff worked at several national parks in New York City that were also affected by Hurricane Sandy, including Gateway National Recreation Area and Federal Hall National Monument. Since school groups could not go to the Statue, park rangers took the Statue to them. Education staff conducted offsite programs at schools and community centers in the metropolitan area. Rangers visited 170 schools, conducting education programs for approximately 5,500 students.
Repairs to the docks needed to transport visitors to Liberty Island were funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Lands Highways Program as part of $28 million committed to roads and bridges in federal parks and recreation areas in New York and New Jersey damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
As before, visitors will undergo security screening before boarding ferries at Battery Park in lower Manhattan and at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey. Newer and more efficient security equipment will permit U.S. Park Police to screen more visitors than ever before, which should cut down on time spent in line.
Ellis Island will remain closed to the public due to damage sustained by Hurricane Sandy. The storm surge covered the entire island during the hurricane, flooding the basement of the historic Main Immigration Building and causing major damage to electric, heating, cooling and telephone systems.
While the artifact and document collection at Ellis largely escaped immediate damage, the lack of a climate-controlled environment forced the National Park Service to relocate historic items to its Museum Resource Center in Maryland. Items will remain there until the island's infrastructure is restored. The agency continues to work on restoring these systems in a sustainable manner, so that the park can recover more quickly from future storms of this size.
Visit www.nps.gov/stli/planyourvisit to find out important information about visiting Liberty Island and the Statue, including the crown.
Tickets to the crown or to the pedestal are limited and must be obtained in advance at www.statuecruises.com or by calling 800-LADY-TIX (800-523-9849).