NEW YORK (TIP): The Statue of Liberty, a beacon of hope for waves of immigrants at the turn of the century – and these days a destination for waves of tourists – reopened to the public Thursday, July 4th, almost nine months after the destruction caused by super storm Sandy. That October storm had left three quarters of Liberty Island underwater and destroyed electrical, phone, water and sewage systems. Sandy struck just a day after the statue had reopened following a yearlong renovation. And before that, there was the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which kept visitors from the inside of the statue for nearly 9 years. Officials said that they hoped that Thursday’s re-opening – the statue’s fourth since 1986 – would be its last for a while. The statue has drawn as many as 4 million visitors a year. And this time, the opening came with predictable patriotic fanfare, including a small marching band clad in Revolutionary War replica uniforms; members of Congress; Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell; and, of course, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose pink-collared shirt was soaked through with sweat as he waited on the dais for his turn to speak.
When he did, Bloomberg said that the statue was “at the heart of what America is really all about.” “Thank God we have people like the French,” Bloomberg added, nodding to the statue’s history, as a gift from France in the 1880s. Bloomberg also took the opportunity to make some pointed comments about climate change, which he said was at the root of increasingly volatile weather conditions across the country and, possibly, major events like Sandy. “Having an argument about climate change … is myopic,” Bloomberg said. “The bottom line is that we have to prepare for the future.” Liberty Island’s recovery, in which crews laid down 42,000 board-feet of new deck, 2,000 feet of hedging, and new electrical, heating, and cooling systems, stands in stark contrast to Ellis Island, which remains closed. Ellis Island was completely submerged after the storm, threatening the island’s archives, which were later removed by the National Park Service Museum Emergency Response Team and taken to a climate-controlled facility in Maryland, said Jonathan B. Jarvis, the director of the Park Service.
And while work at Ellis Island continues, Jarvis declined to give an estimate, of a re-opening date for the island, saying that the challenges there were far greater. “Ellis is still a process,” he said. That hardly mattered to those on the ground Thursday at Liberty Island. Many visitors were ecstatic, some having come from halfway across the world to photograph and climb the stairs of the world’s most famous monuments.