The Statue of Liberty will welcome visitors again on the Fourth of July, eight months after Superstorm Sandy put the 151-foot beacon of freedom out of commission.
Tourists were barred from visiting the Statue of Liberty after Sandy badly damaged docks and infrastructure. Ellis Island, which was completely submerged in water during Sandy, remains closed.
John Warren, a spokesman for the National Park Service, said there was an estimated $59 million in damages caused on Liberty and Ellis islands. He added that the park service was eager to get the tourist attraction, which the NPS estimates generates $174 million a year, ready for the summer. “We’re also very aware that this is an economic driver for the area,” Warren said. “But we also value the Statue of Liberty for what it means — it’s liberty enlightening the world. It inspires people all over the world.”
The reopening is expected to draw more than 15,000 visitors. The day’s events include “Sopranos” star Dominic Chianese singing the national anthem.
The statue was a gift from France as recognition of the two countries’ friendship, as well as a symbol of freedom and democracy.
The design for the statue by sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi began in 1876; meanwhile, the U.S. was responsible for constructing the nearly 200-foot tall pedestal in New York Harbor on which the 225-ton Lady Liberty stands. When fundraising for the pedestal lagged, publisher Joseph Pulitzer roused support for the project through his paper, The World, according to the NPS’ history of the monument.
The Statue of Liberty opened to the public on Oct. 28, 1886. A day and 126 years later, Sandy struck New York City, putting three-quarters of Liberty Island under water. The water surge took out electrical, sewer, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems on both islands; the workers and visitors docks; and buildings that were used for offices and staff, which may not survive, according to Warren.
“It symbolizes hope that the monument will be able to reopen after such a tragedy,” said Emma Boulding, 20, visiting from Durham, N.C.
“It’s such an iconic symbol of New York that ties everyone together.”
(with Morgan Ribera)