The federal government officially shut down at midnight on Saturday morning after Senate Republicans and Democrats failed to reach a spending deal. The move caused all nonessential federal employees to go on furlough, including staffers at all national parks and, more important for residents and tourists in New York City, caused the temporary closure of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
But on Sunday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that New York State would step in and keep the two federally run properties open throughout the shutdown. At a press conference in Battery Park City, he laid out a deal made between his office and the National Parks Service for the State to pay for the $65,000 daily cost of operations at the two parks until Congress is able to reopen the government.
"The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of freedom and opportunity for all, and it is a gross injustice that this administration's dysfunction caused it to shut down,” Cuomo said on Sunday. “When this administration tries to deport immigrants, when they close down the Statue of Liberty, they are attacking who we are.”
On Saturday, tourists who had traveled to New York in hopes of seeing the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island were left disappointed when they discovered that neither were open to the public. The attractions are major revenue drivers for the city and state, which the governor says will more than cover the expenses to keep them up and running.
Cuomo, never one to miss an opportunity for good press, spent much of the press conference expanding on what the Statue of Liberty means for New Yorkers and Americans.
“In many ways, the Statue of Liberty is symbolic for what's going on right now in Washington,” he said. “The issue is about immigration and the sense that some people have that this country should close the doors and stop immigration.”
The last time Congress failed to reach a deal to fund the government was in 2013, leading to a 16-day shutdown. During that stretch, an estimated $500 million was lost in consumer spending from tourism at national parks. The Statue of Liberty was also closed for a good chunk of that shutdown—Cuomo didn’t strike a deal to reopen the monument until its 12th day.