Ellis Island Still Closed After Sandy

Statue of Liberty Also Shut Indefinitely by Superstorm's Wrath

Untold Damage: Sandy inflicted an estimated $59 million in damage to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Officials don’t know if the landmarks will open anytime soon.
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Untold Damage: Sandy inflicted an estimated $59 million in damage to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Officials don’t know if the landmarks will open anytime soon.

By Seth Berkman

Published January 02, 2013, issue of January 04, 2013.
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Estimates on just when, though, vary. In a Dec. 13 story, unnamed National Park Service officials told NPR that some parts of the Ellis and Liberty Islands complex would reopen “in some capacity” by summer.

Luchsinger, the park superintendent, would not confirm that projection.

Zitko and others warn that the longer the closure extends, the more Ellis and Liberty Islands will lose revenue that they depend on to augment their federal allocations.

In 2011, the Statue of Liberty National Monument, and Ellis Island with it, received $15.9 million in federal funds. Through its gift shop and immigrant certificate profits, Zitko’s Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation brought $6.3 million of its own to the islands in fiscal year 2010, the most recent period for which data are publicly available. Save Ellis Island channeled more than $441,000 in fiscal year 2010 into a separate immigration conference center it is developing on Ellis Island.

The storm and resulting closure of Ellis Island have also hurt other businesses affiliated with the park. Statue Cruises, which provides ferry service to the island, had to lay off 130 staff members, a mix of part-time and full-time workers, according to Tegan Firth, the company’s corporate public relations manager. Firth also said that revenues “for this time of the year” are off by 80 percent.

Tom Bernardin, a former park ranger at Ellis Island who now gives guided tours there, said he has had to apply for food stamps and disaster unemployment assistance from the New York Department of Labor, because the Island’s closure has effectively closed his business.

“It’s how I make my living,” said Bernardin, who said he provides two to three tours a week. “I had a slew of tours cancelled. I had quite a few scheduled, and up until last week I was getting calls for people coming in for the holidays.


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