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Liberty, Ellis Island Tour Numbers Off

December 30, 2002|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — Since last year's terrorist attacks, tourism has plummeted at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, across the harbor from the World Trade Center site.

Some foreigners are staying away from New York, domestic visitors are spending less time and tight security remains in effect at Liberty Island, considered a target for terrorists.

In the last year, an estimated 2.5 million visitors rode the ferries from Lower Manhattan to Liberty and Ellis islands, according to the National Park Service, which oversees the sites.

That is half the number who made the trip in 2000, and well below the more than 4 million who had visited in 2001 before Sept. 11, which prompted a 100-day shutdown of the national monuments.

The figures reflect a decline of as much as 20% in the number of foreign tourists, who in normal times stay longer than domestic tourists, and are more likely to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, with its displays detailing the history of the country's immigrants.

By contrast, the number of domestic visitors to New York City in general has remained the same or even surpassed pre-Sept. 11 figures -- about 30 million a year, according to NYC & Co., the city's tourism bureau.

And although the city in general has shown signs of a tourism recovery, various factors keep the two iconic islands in the harbor from drawing the crowds they once did.

On a recent winter day at the boarding dock in Battery Park, hundreds of people still packed a ferry to make that trip.

"Seeing the statue still gives me goose bumps!" said Murray Gould, 70, of Potomac, Md., who first sailed into New York harbor in 1938, barely escaping the Nazis as a 6-year-old Jewish refugee from Poland.

National Park Service spokesman Brian Feeney said that, because domestic visitors spend fewer days in the city, some decide to skip the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, a boat ride that consumes the better part of a day.

In addition, Feeney said, many people assume that all of Liberty Island is still off-limits.

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