Months after Superstorm Sandy, Statue of Liberty to reopen on July 4
Closed to the public since Superstorm Sandy slammed into New York last October, the Statue of Liberty will once again welcome tired and huddled masses — of tourists — on July 4.
About 15,000 people are expected to flock to the landmark for a day of festivities including a morning ribbon-cutting ceremony with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.
More than three million people visit the 305-foot (93-meter) statue — as tall as a 22-story building — each year.
The monument did not sustain damage during the mega-storm that smashed into the US East Coast on October 29.
But Liberty Island, the tiny speck of land on which it sits off the southern tip of Manhattan, was devastated.
Three-quarters of the island was flooded, some parts under more than five feet of water. Docks and railings were dislodged, power and phone lines damaged, and sidewalks were ripped up by the waves and wind.
In the months since Sandy, hundreds of construction workers and National Park Service personnel from across the country have handled repairs.
The city and the park service reached a deal to reestablish security checkpoints in Manhattan, before tourists take the short boat ride to Liberty Island.
Some minor restoration work remains undone with a few days to go before the grand reopening. But the thousands of visitors expected on Thursday will largely have the same access as before the storm.
Tourists who have reserved tickets in advance — and are ready to climb the 377 steps — will be able to visit the statue’s crown, which had only reopened to the public just before Sandy struck following a $30 million face lift.
The total cost of post-Sandy repairs on both Liberty Island and neighboring Ellis Island — the port of entry for millions of immigrants at the start of the 20th century — has been put at $59 million
Ellis Island, hit harder by the storm, is still closed to the public, with no date set for its reopening.
Power and telephone lines are still down there. Hundreds of thousands of museum items were transferred to other storage facilities due to the lack of air conditioning.
The Statue of Liberty is one of the Big Apple’s most popular tourist attractions. In 2011, it drew 3.7 million visitors and generated $174 million in economic activity for the city.
About 400 people usually work at the site, providing security, assistance to visitors, and operating tour boats, souvenir shops, restaurants and other small vending stands.
Lady Liberty was named a UN World Heritage site in 1984.
Created by French sculptor Auguste Bartholdi, with the help of Gustave Eiffel for the interior metal structure, France gave the statue to the United States as a gift and sign of friendship in 1876.
That year marked the 100th anniversary of American independence.
Then US president Grover Cleveland inaugurated the statue on October 28, 1886.