Tourists rejoice as Statue of Liberty in service once more
By Jennie Matthew, AFPNEW YORK CITY--The Statue of Liberty was back to her shining best Sunday, reopened to tourists for the first time since falling victim to the U.S. government shutdown two weeks ago.
October 15, 2013, 12:08 am TWN
Basking in glorious autumn weather, American and foreign tourists thronged Battery Park, excitedly taking pictures and streaming on and off boats taking them to the emblem of the American dream.
“It was amazing,” said Erick Lira, 28, a businessman from Brazil on holiday with his girlfriend. “It's fantastic.”
The couple said they were over the moon to discover that one of the most iconic monuments in the United States was back up and running Sunday, saying they booked their tickets online instantly.
Like many others in the park, they had little interest in the cause of the shutdown — ideological battles between President Barack Obama and House Republicans over the U.S. budget and the country's debt.
Mildly disappointed that the partial reopening had not extended to Ellis Island, they happily headed off instead to Ground Zero, the memorial to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
Liberty Island reopened until Oct. 17 under a deal between the National Park Service and New York State, which donated around US$370,000 to keep it operating and partly offset trade losses.
The National Park Service announced other deals with the states of Arizona, Colorado and Utah to reopen tourist sites closed since the U.S. government partial shutdown came into force on Oct. 1.
“Statue of Liberty is open!!” said large banners unfurled for the benefit of passing traffic on the main road leading to the pier.
Translator Marco Bedoya, who speaks six languages and works for Statue Cruises, the company that takes visitors out to the island, beamed as he strolled outside the ticket booths.
“People are happy, people are asking me questions,” he said.
The company had been forced to offer pre-booked visitors an alternative boat trip round New York Harbor, not always popular, or money back when the statue was closed, but now things are getting back to normal.
“Business now is so much better than before,” Bedoya said.
While tourists who booked months ago were turned away by the shutdown, many Sunday had booked online, spur of the moment trade for what is a long weekend with Columbus Day on Monday.