Lady Liberty Was A Victim Of Federal Government Shutdown

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The federal government may still be partially closed, but the Statue of Liberty isn’t.

As 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reported, Lady Liberty reopened Sunday, a relief to many tourists who had their hearts set on visiting the statue while they were in New York.

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As CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell reported, Kristin Louw and Rocio Avarc made a 16-hour flight to New York all the way from South Africa. But they said the tickets to the Statue of Liberty were the ones that made the trip worthwhile.

“I’m super excited because we wanted to see it for such a long time, and now we’re finally here,” Louw said.

“When we knew that it was closed, we were freaking out,” Avarc said.

But with their $17 passes in hand, their anxiety had subsided as they boarded a ferry to Liberty Island with a teeming crowd.

Elizabeth from Los Angeles and her friend came out four days in a row before dawn in hopes of visiting Liberty Island.

“We were supposed to come here on Thursday morning,” she told Schuck. “We had our tickets booked from like two months ago. And we couldn’t come.

“This is like the only thing I pretty much wanted to do. But hoping for the best, that the government would open their eyes and open up for all us people.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that the state would pay about $61,600 a day to reopen Liberty Island National Park through Oct. 17. If the shutdown is not resolved by then, officials said, they will renegotiate to keep it open.

“The State of New York said to the federal government, if you don’t want to open that Statue of Liberty, we will,” Cuomo said.

Keeping the statue closed, he said, would have meant more lost in revenue for New York State.

“It makes obvious sense for us to pay for the cost of operation, which pales in comparison to amount of money we’re now losing,” Cuomo said.

As WCBS 880’s Monica Miller reported, the governor said some New Yorkers have already lost their jobs to the government shutdown. Brad Hill had to cut jobs at Statue of Liberty concession stands.

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“We were forced to make the very difficult decision of laying off our entire staff – 110 employees,” he said. “They lost over $140,000 in wages.”

Tourists wait in line for a Statue of Liberty tour on Oct. 13, 2013. (credit: Glenn Schuck/1010 WINS)

Tourists wait in line for a Statue of Liberty tour on Oct. 13, 2013. (credit: Glenn Schuck/1010 WINS)

This year has also been especially tough for vendors and businesses in the area because the statue has only been open for 89 days this year because of damage from Superstorm Sandy. With the government shutdown, they’ve taken yet another hit.

“Business is bad,” said vendor Gregory Brown. “When the statue closes down, basically everything closes down.”

With fewer tourists around, street vendors said business has been dismal.

“It was a ghost town,” Brown said. But with the statue reopened, he said, “Now I like it.”

And he was not alone.

“Thank God for New York,” John Jongma from Iowa said. “Just wish our politicians could get their heads together and work things out instead of bickering all the time. I’m a veteran. I served my country proudly, but I’m very disappointed in our political system today.”

Judy from Topeka, Kan., was just happy her wait to see Lady Liberty was finally over.

“I got chills up and down my spine when I saw it,” she said.

New York State has 33 sites under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, and they have been shut since Oct. 1 during the partial federal government shutdown. The sites include the statue and nearby Ellis Island, which remains closed for repairs since superstorm Sandy last year.

Nearly 4 million people visited Lady Liberty in 2011, generating $174 million in economic activity, the park service said.

Governors in several other states have asked for authority to reopen parks within their borders, citing economic losses from closures. Arizona reopened the Grand Canyon on Saturday. Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado also reopened along with several parks in Utah, according to the parks service website.

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