Funds from New York State will reopened the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island today, in the wake of the U.S. government shutdown that closed the two iconic federally operated historic sites on Friday.
The two sites have played important parts in America’s immigration history and have a significant impact on the New York State economy. According to an annual report by the National Park Service, 4.5 million people visited Liberty Island in 2016, generating $263.2 million in visitor spending per year and supporting 3,400 jobs, with an economic output of $364 million.
Under an agreement with Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, the State will pay to reopen the park as the federal shutdown continues. The park will be fully open and functioning as usual. The State will pay the federal government $65,000 for each day that the park is open. With the exception of Castle Clinton, all other New York Harbor sites remain closed.
As a result of the shutdown which has denied access to an average of 10,000 visitors to the park daily, more than 900 direct jobs have been impacted at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, including with the National Park Service and Evelyn Hill, Inc. Statue Cruises which provides ferry rides to the island has seen its daily ridership drop 50-70 percent. The tour boat company employs about 200 people.
Federal historic sites across the nation are mostly closed due to the shutdown, including the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and numerous presidential homes. National Park Service historic sites in New York State expected to be affected by the closure include Fort Stanwix, the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Martin Van Buren House, Sagamore Hill (the former home of Theodore Roosevelt), the Saratoga Battlefield (site of the turning point of the American Revolution), the home of Hudson River School painter Thomas Cole, and the Women’s Right National Historic Park in Seneca Falls.
Nine of the 12 National Park System Advisory Board members resigned on Monday last week, saying their communications with Secretary Zinke have been repeatedly ignored. They said they had not held a single meeting last year.
“New York State will not allow the vitriol of Washington to close the Statue of Liberty,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement to the press announcing the move. During the 2013 Federal government shutdown, Governor Cuomo reached a similar agreement to reopen the Statue of Liberty using State tourism funding.
Illustration: A 1917 War Bond Poster (cropped).