By Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor
Ferries packed with tourists from around the world delivered crowds who were eager to see a truly iconic symbol of freedom up close — the Statue of Liberty.
A military fife and drum unit led the ceremony marking the reopening of Liberty Island. On hand were federal and local officials who reflected on the damage the storm caused, not to the statue, but virtually everything around her.
“From the high winds and the strong storm surge, we lost electricity, water, phones, even our sewage system,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis. “We had this enormous challenge on our hands. But I’m very happy to say that challenge has been met. The National Park Service and its incredible partners worked literally around the clock to get this incredible place back open.”
Total repair costs here and on hard hit Ellis Island exceed $70 million. Paul Natoli’s Jersey-based firm got much of the infrastructure back up and running and restored the promenade.
“That was completely demolished and rebuilt with new brick pavers, new granite copings. We restored that brick wall that separates that promenade from the monument lawns. We also demolished the dock which was unsafe,” Natoli said.
Liberty Island certainly has come a long way since the storm, but it’s a much different story for its neighbor Ellis Island, which remains closed.
Federal officials admit the priority was getting Liberty Island ready for Independence Day, celebrating America’s fight for freedom. Meanwhile, Sen. Bob Menendez reflected on another revolution halfway around the world in Egypt.
“Obviously we have significant national interest in having a stable Egypt both for our ally, the state of Israel, for the entire region and the security of our own people,” Menendez said.
A second phase of repair work is ongoing on Liberty Island. It calls for elevating mechanical and electrical systems to protect them from future storms. That project and other work is expected to be completed in the fall.