Under Agreement with Federal Government, NYS to Fund Daily Operations to Keep National Park Open
Albany, NY (October 11, 2013)
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that New York State has reached an agreement with the federal government to reopen the Statue of Liberty. Under the agreement, the State will fully fund National Park Service personnel at the daily cost of $61,600 to keep Liberty Island National Park open to visitors as the federal government shutdown continues. The Park will reopen this weekend.
“The Statue of Liberty is one of this country’s most recognizable landmarks, attracting millions of visitors to the state every year, and its closure these last 11 days has had a terrible impact on the local economy and tourism industry,” Governor Cuomo said. “Every day that Liberty Island is closed means we are losing visitors who would otherwise be spending at our local businesses – not to mention the employees who maintain the park and have been forced out of work. As the shutdown continues, we cannot afford to lose the thousands of visits to the park each day. So while the dysfunction and gridlock in Washington D.C. has failed to keep this important state asset open, New York is stepping up to take over this responsibility. With the Columbus Day holiday weekend upon us, I am pleased to reopen Lady Liberty to visitors and look forward to seeing local businesses bustling once again. We will not allow this international symbol of freedom to remain closed because of the dysfunction and gridlock of Washington. I commend Secretary Jewell for reaching this agreement, and urge Congress to open the government.”
Senate Majority Coalition Co-Leader Dean G. Skelos said, “For years, the Statue of Liberty has stood as a powerful symbol of freedom and hope for millions of immigrants pursuing the American Dream. This majestic landmark was a welcoming sight to my grandparents when they arrived in this country from Greece. I am proud to work with my partners in state government to ensure that the Statue of Liberty is reopened to welcome tourists and new citizens, proving that even in the midst of this government shutdown in Washington, D.C., New York will continue to lead the way.”
Senate Majority Coalition Co-Leader Jeffrey Klein said, “The Statue of Liberty is not only one of New York City's most important tourist attractions--it is also an enduring reminder of the proud principles our nation stands for. I'm very pleased that this important landmark will remain open during this troubling time in our nation's capital and I applaud Governor Cuomo for making it a reality.”
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said, “The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are symbols of American freedom and opportunity which bring millions of tourists to New York City and Lower Manhattan each year. Visitors generate approximately $174 million in our local economy. Unfortunately, Hurricane Sandy forced the closure of these historic sites for nearly eight months. Tourism is a vital part of Lower Manhattan’s economy which is still recovering from the September 11th attack and it cannot withstand the economic impact of further closures. I thank Governor Cuomo for working with us to keep these sites open which will restore this investment in our local economy.”
As a result of the federal government shutdown, the U.S. Department of the Interior closed all national parks across the country last week and furloughed more than 20,000 National Park Service employees. In response to the economic impacts that park closures have on local communities, the Department is considering agreements with Governors who indicate an interest and ability to fully fund National Park Service personnel to reopen national parks in their states. These payments will not be reimbursed unless Congress passes a law to provide refunds to individual states.
Under Governor Cuomo’s agreement with Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, the State will pay for the first four days of reopening the park, with funding coming from the State’s tourism budget. To keep the park open, the State must give the Department two days’ notice for every additional two days. The park will be fully open and functioning as usual. The State will pay the federal government $61,600 for each day that the park is open.
Liberty Island National Park has a major impact on the New York State economy. According to a 2012 annual report by the National Park Service, 3.7 million people visited Liberty Island in 2011, generating $174 million in economic activity and supporting 2,218 jobs. Every visitor spends an average of about $35 for the ferry, food and souvenirs at Liberty Island and Ellis Island. Additional expenditures outside the park are estimated to be as high as $100 with each visit. The park generates more than $15 million in revenue from concessioner and franchise fees for the federal government, as well as $3.2 million in license fees to New York City parks plus sales taxes.
As a result of the shutdown – which has denied access to more than 10,000 visitors to the park daily – more than 400 direct jobs have been lost 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, and the company now has 180 jobs at risk. In addition, the federal government itself is losing $50,000 per day in concessioner fees.
This shutdown also follows an 8-month closure of Liberty Island due to Superstorm Sandy. Ellis Island remains closed to the public.
Bradford A. Hill, President of Evelyn Hill Inc., said, “Evelyn Hill has served visitors on Liberty Island for 82 years and after suffering through eight months of closure after Superstorm Sandy, our sales have dropped almost 70 percent this year. Now with the shutdown, 152,000 visitors have been denied access to the park, landing another terrible hit to our family business. We have been forced to lay off 100% of our staff – 110 workers in total – who have lost $140,000 in wages. It has been difficult to survive these natural and Congressional disasters so we are thankful that Governor Cuomo sees the importance of reopening the park. We are excited to welcome visitors back to Miss Liberty, our country’s most patriotic symbol, once again.”
Mike Burke, COO of Statue Cruises, said, “When the National Park is closed, our business cannot attract the tens of thousands visitors who have come to New York City to take a ferry ride and explore Liberty Island firsthand. Not only has our daily ferry ridership fallen 50 to 70 percent these last two weeks, we have 180 jobs at risk - employees and their families who will be hard hit if this park closure continues. That is why we are so thankful to Governor Cuomo for stepping up to the plate to ensure that the Statue of Liberty will open as soon as possible to visitors, and we are glad to contribute to the funding for the reopening.”