John Makely / NBC News
Officials on Tuesday announced the Statue of Liberty will open July 4, more than nine months after Hurricane Sandy struck.
The Statue of Liberty, closed since Hurricane Sandy battered the Northeast more than nine months ago, will reopen to the public on July 4, officials announced Tuesday.
In a conference call with reporters, outgoing Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer announced that Liberty Island is on track to re-open on America's birthday with a new dock, improved energy infrastructure and repaired facilities.
"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 in press release after the call. "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."
The statute itself was unharmed when the super storm hit in late October. But crippling damage to the rest of the island has left it unsafe for visitors. About 75 percent of Liberty Island was submerged. Nearly all the island’s infrastructure was destroyed by water that was more than five feet deep over some parts of the 12-acre area.
“It’s good news, it’s a little overdue, but at least it’s there and now we’ll watch like a hawk to make sure that this promise is kept,” Schumer told NBCNewYork.com.
It's been months since the Statue of Liberty was closed due to Hurricane Sandy, but it's now slated to reopen for visitors on the Fourth of July. NBC's Brian Williams reports.
The Democratic senator has at times been critical of the Department of the Interior for not setting a date for the statue's re-opening. The uncertainty, Schumer said, cost New York tourism revenue and jobs to those who worked on Liberty Island and neighboring Ellis Island.
But on Tuesday, Schumer thanked Salazar for his hard work in reopening the monument.
It also took Congress 91 days after the storm hit for Congress to pass a $50.5 billion relief package. Almost $60 million of will go to repairing the country's national parks, including Liberty Island.
Park officials told NBC News last month that the money will go not only to repairing the damage, but rebuilding for the future so that the next storm does not have the same crippling impact.
"As we rebuild the region, we will do so in a way that makes New York and New Jersey stronger, safer and more resilient than ever before," Salazar said in the statement with Schumer Tuesday.
There is still no opening date set for neighboring Ellis Island, which suffered more extensive damage and houses one million artifacts.