New York (WALK) - As the partial shutdown of the federal government drags into a third week, the Statue of Liberty reopened to visitors yesterday.
Lady Liberty opened to the public Sunday for the first time since October 1st, when the government shutdown forced the closure of it and 400 other national parks and museums across the country. According to Governor Andrew Cuomo, the statue is back in operation under an agreement reached with the federal government last Friday which calls for New York State to fully fund National Park Service personnel at the daily cost of $61,600 to keep Liberty Island National Park open to visitors as the federal government shutdown continues.
Governor Cuomo said that it's cheaper for New York to keep the Statue of Liberty open than to have it closed, because its closure is so costly to the state economy.
"The Statue of Liberty attracts thousands of visits every day, generating economic activity and supporting jobs that we cannot afford to lose," said Cuomo.
Under an agreement with Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, the state will pay for the first four days of reopening the park, with funding coming from New York State’s tourism budget. To keep the park open, the state must give the Department two days’ notice for every additional two days. The park will be fully open and functioning as usual.
According to a 2012 annual report by the National Park Service and cited by the Governor, 3.7 million people visited Liberty Island in 2011, generating $174 million in economic activity and supporting 2,218 jobs. Every visitor spends an average of about $35 for the ferry, food and souvenirs at Liberty Island and Ellis Island. Additional expenditures outside the park are estimated to be as high as $100 with each visit. The park also generates more than $15 million in revenue from concessioner and franchise fees for the federal government, as well as $3.2 million in license fees to New York City parks plus sales taxes.
Governor Cuomo says that more than 400 jobs have been lost at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island as a direct result of the government shutdown. Statue Cruises, which provides ferry rides to the island, has seen its daily ridership drop 50 to 70%, and the company now has 180 jobs at risk. In addition, the federal government itself is losing $50,000 per day in concessioner fees.
As a result of the federal government shutdown, all national parks across the country were closed and more than 20,000 National Park Service employees were furloughed. In response to the economic impacts that park closures have on local communities, the Department of the Interior is considering agreements with Governors who indicate an interest and ability to fully fund National Park Service personnel to reopen national parks in their states. These payments will not be reimbursed unless Congress passes a law to provide refunds to individual states.
Photo: National Park Service