Statue of Liberty reopens amid government shutdown with state funding
After nearly two weeks closed during the government shutdown, the Statue of Liberty reopened Sunday.
New York State will pay the federal government $61,600 each day of the shutdown to fund the national park, officials announced this weekend.
“The Statue of Liberty is more than just a tourist destination…it’s probably the most profound symbol for freedom and democracy,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday. ”We’re not going to let that message cease operation if we can have anything to do about it.”
The state will pay for park operations through Wednesday using the tourism budget, officials said. For every additional two days New York wishes to fund the park, the state must give the Department of the Interior two days notice.
Cuomo said the state is prepared to keep the park open until the shutdown is over.
Funding for the park will not be returned to New York unless Congress passes a law to reimburse individual states making similar deals to keep certain national parks open.
Each day the park was closed, local businesses and furloughed workers suffered, Cuomo said.
“The economic damage done by closing the Statue of Liberty is profound,” he said.
More than 10,000 visitors were denied access to the statue every day during the shutdown. Over 400 jobs were lost as a direct result from the closure, officials said.
Statue Cruises, which ferries visitors to Liberty Island, said daily ridership decreased 50 to 70 percent during the shutdown and estimated 180 jobs were at risk because of the shutdown.
Every visitor spends about $35 for the ferry, food and souvenirs at Liberty and Ellis Islands, though the latter remains closed after Superstorm Sandy.
Tourism from both supported some 2,218 jobs and generated $174 million in economic activity in 2011, according to a report from the National Parks Service.
Officials don’t know exactly how much the tourism industry as a whole lost because of the statue’s closure.
“That has been untold millions of dollars in damage,” Cuomo said.
The 12-day closure was particularly brutal following an eight-month closure because of Sandy.
Sales have dropped nearly 70 percent this year because of the storm, according Bradford A. Hill, the president of Evelyn Hill, Inc., which manages the gift shops and restaurants on Liberty Island.
“Needless to say, after surviving a natural disaster, we were once again struggling to survive,” Hill said Sunday.
The concession company’s staff, laid off during the shutdown, was hired back Sunday.
“It is heartening to know that when Washington, D.C., fails to deliver to Americans and there is no end to the gridlock in sight, we have a state we can rely on to step up to the plate.”
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