ALBANY, NY - State and federal officials are in talks aimed at reopening the Statue of Liberty, giving tourists hope for closer encounters with the monument and making businesses more optimistic they will be able to hire back workers idled because of the federal government shutdown.
A Cuomo administration official told The Associated Press on Friday that the state is working with parks officials on a plan to reopen the popular visitors' destination in New York Harbor. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly and no deal has been reached.
New York has 33 sites under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, which have been shut since Oct. 1 because of the partial federal government shutdown. The sites include the statue and nearby Ellis Island, which has been closed for repairs since Superstorm Sandy last year.
Governors in several other states have asked for authority to reopen parks within their borders, citing economic losses from closures. The park service said Thursday it would allow parks to reopen as long as states picked up the cost. The details of how any deal in New York would be paid for weren't initially clear.
"It is just terrific news that the governor of New York has stepped forward to help us reopen the Statue of Liberty," said Bradford Hill, president of the company that operates the gift shop and food service at both the statue and Ellis Island.
Hill said his company, Evelyn Hill, has laid off 110 employees because of the shutdown. He estimated that 152,000 potential visitors have been unable to visit since Oct. 1.
The statue is normally open seven days a week. The 82-year-old company would like to bring its staff back immediately and could reopen tomorrow morning, Hill said Friday. He said he had been told that the park service had been planning to open Ellis Island in some fashion Oct. 28.
Hill estimated his firm has lost about $750,000 in sales from the shutdown.
Statue Cruises, which in conjunction with National Park Service runs boats from Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, gets about 7,000 to 10,000 passengers on an average day. Nancy Hine, an employee, said Friday that the boats are getting about 3,000 daily since the shutdown. All they can offer now is a one-hour tour of the harbor, which includes floating near the statue so tourists can take pictures.
Manish Tripathi, a 28-year-old tourist from Delhi, India, took one of the abbreviated cruises.
"It was not great. You could not even get that close to get a good picture," she said. "When we see America in the movies it was always the Statue of Liberty. Without the statue, it doesn't feel totally like America. It's not the same."
Not everyone's business is hurting. Orlando Cuello works at All Tours and Attractions, which has a contract with New York Water Taxi to provide harbor tours. They never have been able to provide service right to the statue, and they have taken advantage of the level playing field.
"We have more people coming," Cuello said. "We can get them close to the statue. We stop and they take pictures for 10 to 15 minutes. People like it."
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Click on the region names in the map below to see news from that region.
Things To Do
We’ve turned a corner! The weather is warming up so it’s the perfect time to get outdoors and enjoy some fantastic weather.
RIGHT NOW: Top Stories
An official said evidence collected suggests possible gaming violations including possession of gambling devices, benefiting from gambling, promotion of gambling and possession of gambling records.
A former Arizona detective under fire for wrongdoing is set for a hearing Friday as he asks a judge to allow him to assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and not testify at her retrial.
A 5-year-old girl surprised her deaf parents during her school’s holiday concert.
Authorities said the suspect in an overnight carjacking and armed robbery is in serious condition after attempting to evade police and then jumping off a freeway bridge.
A dog is being credited with alerting a family that their house was on fire.
The jackpot for the Mega Millions lottery game has been boosted to $425 million because of heavy sales.