New York-bound tourists and fourth grade field trips — the "huddled masses" or whatever — can breathe in relief as the Statue of Liberty reopens in time for July 4, eight months after Liberty Island was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy. Just don't book your ferry yet. Tours are reportedly booked up for the next week or so, and those who wish to get close and gawk will have to do so from elsewhere. (Perhaps steer clear of Statue Cruises, which reportedly owes the city at least $83,000 in taxes after claiming touching New Jersey waters qualifies as "interstate commerce.")
Mike Litterst, a spokesman for the “incident management team” that the Park Service has assembled in New York City, said the statue, its pedestal and its base received “little or no damage.” But, he added, none of the mechanical systems, including electricity, on Liberty Island were functioning after the basement of the building that houses a cafe and gift shop flooded.
By chance, the storm arrived just a day after the statue reopened following a yearlong renovation, so if you are one of the tourists who managed to visit during that fleeting window of freedom on October 28, count yourself among the few and proud. At the time of the damage the National Park Service was hoping to reopen to the public by November 1, 2012, but then — well, really, why not July 4? Naturally, there's a nifty ribbon-cutting ceremony and celebration set for tomorrow, and Mayor Bloomberg, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, and U.S. Senator Robert Menendez will all be in attendance, among "other dignitaries."
The total repair bill for Liberty and Ellis Islands comes to $59 million. The latter, however, remains closed indefinitely. Who knows — maybe its gates will swing open, symbolically enough, when immigration reform passes. We're not holding our breath.