NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – The Statue of Liberty finally reopened on the Fourth of July months after Superstorm Sandy swamped its little island in New York Harbor.
A large crowd gathered for the holiday and ribbon-cutting ceremony at Liberty Island with federal officials and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“It was no small feat to really restore this,” National Parks Service Director Jonathan Jarvis said. ”It is one of the most enduring icons of America, and we pulled it off – it’s open today.”
The tiny island was decorated with star-spangled bunting Thursday, but some parts remain blocked off, and the main ferry dock was boarded up. Nevertheless, visitors were impressed.
“It’s stunning, it’s beautiful,” said Elizabeth Bertero from California. “They did a great job rebuilding. You don’t really notice that anything happened.”
“This is an amazing experience to be here on the Fourth,” said Laiken Valentine of Johnstown, Ohio. “It’s great that it opened today and we’re back. I love it — it’s gorgeous.”
“This to us, Liberty Island, is really about a rebirth,” said Heather Leykam, whose mother’s home in Breezy Point was destroyed during Sandy. “It is a sense of renewal for the city and the country.”
Some repairs to brick walkways and docks are still underway, but much of work has been completed since Sandy swamped most of the 12 acres of the national landmark.
The statue was spared in the fall storm, but Lady Liberty’s little island took a serious beating. Railings broke, docks and paving stones were torn up and buildings were flooded. The storm destroyed electrical systems, sewage pumps and boilers.
Liberty Island Superintendent David Luchsinger noted that the island had reopened after being closed for a year for security upgrades Oct. 28, the day before Sandy struck.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a little sick and tired of opening as closing the Statue of Liberty,” Luchsinger said. “I think we will keep it open this time.”
Hundreds of National Park Service workers from as far away as California and Alaska spent weeks cleaning mud and debris.
“People will have, more or less, the same access to Liberty Island that they had before,” said John Warren, a spokesman for the
Statue of Liberty National Monument.
Visitors to Lady Liberty went through security in lower Manhattan after city officials criticized an earlier plan to screen them at neighboring Ellis Island, which endured far worse damage to its infrastructure and won’t be open to the public anytime soon.
“It just made no sense to give people a security search once they got to Liberty Island,” Sen. Charles Schumer said last month.
The damage to both islands was put at $59 million.
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