The Statue of Liberty is poised to retake her place as one of the most visited sites in America when it reopens this Thursday, July 4, after being shut down last October by Hurricane Sandy.
“Our contractors have been working 24-7 over the past few weeks to get things reopened and for people to enjoy it,” says John Warren, public affairs officer of the Statue of Liberty National Monument, about the reopening.
Warren, who lives in Trenton and has been at the helm of communications for the project over the past month, says that Hurricane Sandy created an estimated $59 million in damage to both Liberty Island (where the statue is situated) and Ellis Island (which will reopen at a future date).
“There was damage to the infrastructure, so most of the damage is something you don’t see,” says Warren, a transplanted Texan who worked in public affairs at Gateway National Recreation Area.
The most severe problems were related to electrical, communications, and heating and cooling systems. “It was all the stuff that went out when the hurricane came,” he says.
The waves of water that spilled over both Liberty and Ellis islands never touched the statue or the pedestal. “It never got up to it,” he says, noting that site of the statue is not as flat as the other location.
Ellis Island “was completely covered with water. We want to fix it, but we want to be smart about it and want to fix it so it makes it through another storm,” says Warren. “We are putting all our energy on Liberty Island, and then will look back at Ellis and see what we need to do.”
Some of the repairs that a visitor will see are the sidewalks. “They’re being repaved. One of the docks was damaged. We had to build a new dock.”
The reopening for the repairs is actually the continuation of another reopening that started in October, 2012, the day before the storm.
The interior of the pedestal and stairwells to the monument’s crown had gone through a long restoration process and were finally ready for use.
“We’ll be finally able to use it. We were open for a day and closed. And it was to celebrate the work that they did, and we had to close the next day,” Warren says.
Visitors wishing to get to the site need to plan ahead — dates are selling out — and be prepared for airport-style security, says Warren.
Currently only tickets and trips from Battery Park in Manhattan are available. Liberty State Park in New Jersey departures will be posted on the National Park Service (NPS) website and Facebook.
The NPS offers two types of visits to the statue. One is a visit to Liberty Island and the pedestal. The other is a visit to the island and the crown.
Since all visits require the same approach by ferry, potential visitors need to go to the official transportation line, Statue Cruises. Again, the NPS suggest reserving tickets in advance.
The ferry fee to the island is $17 for adults ages 13 to 61, $14 for people over 62, $9 for ages 5 through 13, and free for those under four. Pedestal views as well as audio and ranger tours are included in the price. Additional attractions include Fort Wood and a museum.
Statue Cruises, in addition to transporting visitors to and from the monument, is also the official source for crown reservations, and all reservations must be made online or by telephone. They are not available at the ticket office.
Access to the crown is by advance reservation and requires a $3 additional fee. The crown ticket also includes access to the pedestal and other sites on the island.
Up to four crown reservations are allowed per order with only one reservation made by an individual during a six-month period.
Children over four years old must be four feet or taller to visit the crown. Smaller children may travel as high as the pedestal. All children must be accompanied by an adult at all times.
The names of individuals visiting the crown need to be provided when tickets are purchased. Since the ticket will have the name of each visitor printed on it, each ticket holder (except minors) is required to bring a photo ID. Tickets are non-transferable.
Crown tickets must be picked up at the ticket office’s will call window, and the purchaser must show photo ID and the same credit card used to reserve the tickets. Those tickets are for a specific date and will have the time to enter the embarkation site security facility printed on the face.
The NPS is quick to advise individuals about the reality of climbing the double spiral steps to the crown. There are 393 steps from the lobby to the crown (146 are 18 inches wide, and some have only 5.9 feet of head clearance). The public elevator only functions between the top of the pedestal and the feet of the statue. People who have heart conditions, respiratory ailments, mobility issues, or suffer from claustrophobia, acrophobia, or vertigo are advised to consider the risk. There is a compact, tight, emergency elevator that runs through a tube-like passage to address life-threatening situations.
The statue’s entrance starts at a white tent found directly behind the statue. Those with crown reservations must show their crown tickets and photo ID for verification at the entrance.
Visitors will also need to adhere to following regulations about what a visitor can bring on the trip to the crown: only one camera per person (no camera bags), the ferry ticket with crown reservation, and medication for those with medical needs. All bags and other items must be secured in the lockers made available.
Items to secure include any object that can mark the copper interior — keys, coins, pens, pocket knives — or impede movement on the crown staircase.
The 13-inch-by-9-inch-by-12-inch lockers are available at $2 for an hour. Only bills are accepted (no credit cards) and an attendant is on hand to provide change for large bills.
About departures from Jersey City, where docks were destroyed, Warren says, “We’re extremely hopeful that (the ferries) will be open and that New Jerseyans will be able to access Liberty Island through Liberty State Park. We’re working pretty hard to get Liberty State Park to have ferries on the Fourth of July.”
For more details or reservations, go to at www.statuecruises.com or call 1-877-LADY-TIX and 1-201-604-2800.
For more details about the National Park Service and the Statue of Liberty, go to www.nps.gov/stli.