Feds will reopen Statue of Liberty by Fourth of July
Out of commission since Superstorm Sandy, the Statue of Liberty finally has a timetable for its long-awaited return.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar ended months of uncertainty and speculation about the reopening Tuesday and said Liberty Island would be back in business by the Fourth of July.
New Yorkers and tourists alike will also be able visit the crown again.
Although the iconic copper statue didn't suffer extreme damage from the Oct. 29 storm, Sandy wreaked havoc on the rest of the island, destroying docks and crippling its electrical and plumbing infrastructure.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said since Congress approved $59 million to repair the island in January he pushed the National Park Service to work as fast as possible because the damage was hurting the city's economy.
"Since Sandy, hundreds of thousands of visitors have been deprived of visiting one of New York's most iconic sites," he said in a conference call.
Schumer said business owners have struggled for months financially because they didn't have a clear idea as to when the statue would reopen.
Salazar said crews have been working several shifts to restore Liberty Island's facilities, including its security systems, and build a new dock that can withstand storms.
He left open the possibility that the island could open sooner if work's done faster.
"July 4 is a date we can assure . . . the people of New York and the people of the world that it will be open," he said.
Ironically, the storm hit a day after visitors were able to visit the crown for the first time after a yearlong renovation.
There is no set date for the reopening of Ellis Island as it suffered more damage, but a National Parks Department spokesman said historical documents were saved.
Both islands saw close to 4 million visitors in 2011, generating $174 million in revenue, according to Salazar.
Schumer said his office has received many calls from businesses in downtown Manhattan, such as restaurants, boathouses and hotels, who said they were losing thousands of dollars a week because tourists were not going to see the statue.
"Some hoteliers said they had to cancel their reservations," he said.
Catherine McVay Hughes, the chairwoman of Manhattan's Community Board 1, which includes Liberty Island, said aside from the lost revenue, the statue's closure meant that tourists had less of an enticement to explore the other historical aspects of downtown Manhattan.
"More people go to see the statue of liberty than the Grand Canyon," she said. "A lot of school children head there as part of their school curriculum and it's important they know the history of the statue and the neighborhood."
The Statue of Liberty gets more visitors than the Grand Canyon, according to officials. Here are the latest annual visitor stats as of 2011, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior.
NUMBER OF VISITORS
JOBS RELATED TO STATUE