NEW YORK (AP) – Lady Liberty was once again welcoming visitors to her shores Sunday after the state agreed to shoulder the costs of running the famed statue during the federal government shutdown.
Eager sightseers stood in line in Manhattan’s Battery Park, waiting for the ferry trips to the Statue of Liberty, which had been shut since Oct. 1.
Simon and Dominik Balz, brothers visiting from Bern, Switzerland, had booked their trip in May, with the statue among their planned stops. The shutdown had made that seem impossible, “so we were very disappointed,” Simon Balz said.
That disappointment turned into excitement when they found out about the reopening. The statue is “well-known all over the world,” he said. “It’s very special.”
Esther Athanase, a 26-year-old au pair from Le Havre, France, was using a ticket she’d booked months ago with a friend. “We have to do this,” she said. “It’s an American symbol. And it was a gift from France.”
Ahmed Albin-Hamad, 24, a Saudi Arabian student at Drexel University in Pennsylvania, said he came to Battery Park to get a view of the statue.
“I assumed it was closed, but at least I could see it,” he said. He was happy to learn the statue had reopened.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that the state would pay about $61,600 a day to reopen Liberty Island National Park through Oct. 17. If the shutdown is not resolved by then, officials said, they will renegotiate to keep it open.
On Sunday, Cuomo said it was in the state’s economic interest to make sure the statue was accessible.
“When you close down the Statue of Liberty, you close down a good portion of the tourism that comes to New York City, and that is untold millions of dollars of damage,” he said.
New York has 33 sites under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, and they have been shut since Oct. 1 during the partial federal government shutdown. The sites include the statue and nearby Ellis Island, which remains closed for repairs since Superstorm Sandy last year.
Nearly 4 million people visited Lady Liberty in 2011, generating $174 million in economic activity, the park service said.
Governors in several other states have asked for authority to reopen parks within their borders, citing economic losses from closures. Arizona reopened the Grand Canyon on Saturday. Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado also reopened along with several parks in Utah, according to the parks service website.
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