LOWER MANHATTAN — The Statue of Liberty is slated to reopen by July 4, more than eight months after Hurricane Sandy left Liberty Island with extensive storm damage, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Senator Chuck Schumer announced Tuesday.
Lady Liberty herself was unscathed by the massive storm, but her home island took a substantial hit, Salazar said.
“Hurricane Sandy inflicted major damage on facilities that support the Statue of Liberty — destroying the docks, crippling the energy infrastructure on Ellis Island and wiping out the security screening system — but we are fully committed to reopening this crown jewel as soon as it's safe for visitors and not a second later,” Salazar said.
The National Park Service is still evaluating the more severe damage to Ellis Island, and officials said they are not yet ready to announce a reopening date for the historic spot.
The Park Service also not made a decision on the much-debated security screening plan for visitors to the statue, but details will be announced next week, officials said.
The National Park Service previously proposed removing the much-maligned Battery Park security tents, where visitors were screened before they boarded the ferry to the attractions, and moving the security screening to Ellis Island instead.
But the NYPD has objected to moving the security out of Battery Park.
On Tuesday, Salazar said that with crews working hard, it's possible Liberty Island could open even sooner than the Fourth of July, but it will definitely open no later than the national holiday.
It was important to get the 126-year-old landmark open as swiftly as possible, said Schumer, in part to boost local businesses.
More than 3.7 million people visited the national park in 2011, generating $174 million in economic activity and supporting 2,218 jobs, according to a federal study.
"July Fourth is the perfect day to reopen a symbol of our nation's freedom, and speaks volumes about New York's resilience," Schumer said.
"Lady Liberty was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy, but just like New York, she will be back — and stronger than ever. Being open for the summer tourism season isn't just important symbolically, it's a boon to the city's economy and businesses, as the statue attracts millions of tourists from all over the world to our shores."
The repairs to both Liberty and Ellis islands will cost about $59 million in federal funds, officials said.