NEW YORK—It has been eight months since Superstorm Sandy pummeled New York City and flooded Liberty Island, which houses the iconic Statue of Liberty. Normally bustling with summer tourists, Lady Liberty has seen only construction workers for months as it was closed for extensive repairs.
“It’s been 248 days. But who’s counting?” joked Mike Burke, COO of Statue Cruises, the authorized ferry service for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
With the statue closed, Statue Cruises scrambled to make ends meet, offering harbor tours seven days-a-week every half hour which circled around the statue, but without docking.
On July 4, after months of repairs, Lady Liberty is set to once again welcome guests with a grand reopening ceremony—and Burke will be welcoming back his employees with open arms.
“We are glad to hire all our employees back who have been furloughed or working less shifts,” said Burke.
Burke said the tours he ran while Liberty Island was under construction helped his company come close to breaking even, but he still had to get financial support from the parent company, Hornblower Cruises and Events.
“It kept us alive,” Burke said of the harbor tours.
On the morning of July 4, Burke’s boats will, for the first time since October of 2012, offload passengers to Liberty Island. Statue Cruises will take its first passengers to a ceremony to reopen Liberty Island, with a ribbon cutting and a singing performance by actor Dominic Chianese from the Sopranos.
The flood waters of Superstorm Sandy destroyed the security checkpoint area located in Battery Park. As part of the repairs in the Battery, new checkpoints had to be installed.
The National Park Service (NPS) tried to move the security to Liberty Island, but found strong opposition from NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, as well as Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Citing safety issues, especially at a high-value target for terrorists, Kelly and Bloomberg requested the checkpoints be moved back to Battery Park. The NPS obliged.
On July 3, Burke was busy putting the final touches on the new screening area, which he says will offer new machines, better air conditioning, and carpeted floors.
“We are still assembling all this as we speak, but this will certainly be a better visitor experience,” Burke said. “The amenities are much better, there is more access and we are hoping the security processing will be quicker.”
Burke said Statue Cruises will offer 33 tours out of Battery Park, running every 15 minutes from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., every day beginning on July 4. Tickets to the crown of the Statue of Liberty have already sold out through July, but tickets to Liberty Island are still available.