Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in December inspected damage caused by… (John Moore / Getty Images )
[Updated, 1:45 p.m. March 19: The National Park Service announced Tuesday that it plans to reopen the Statue of Liberty to visitors by July 4. Repairs to the docks where visitors disembark would be fixed with federal transportation funds, the announcement said.]
The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island received $59 million to repair damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in October, but how to fix them remains up in the air.
"Should the island be patched up quickly and reopened at the risk of further flooding or should longer repairs be made to relocate infrastructure up higher, with the hopes of minimizing further flooding? Let us know what you would do." That's the question posed last week by the National Park Service on the Statue of Liberty National Monument's Facebook page.
The reopening of the two popular New York Harbor landmarks -- currently no dates have been set -- hangs on how the question is answered.
The 126-year-old Statue of Liberty itself withstood the Oct. 29 storm but the power system and backup generators as well as a dock and brick walkways on Liberty Island were ruined by storm-fed flooding. Lady Liberty had undergone a $30-million renovation and reopened to the public just one day before the storm hit.
Ellis Island National Monument also was lashed by flooding, which knocked out its infrastructure and prompted the removal of its displays and exhibits.
Since the storm, the park service's Museum Emergency Response Team rescued some artifacts and documents from "salty, ookey water" damage, according to a recent story on American University Radio. More than a million items from the former immigrant processing center were sent to a climate-controlled storage facility in Maryland.
Despite the closures, tourists may still board cruises, some with park service rangers who provide commentary, to see the two landmarks from the water.
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