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Schumer To Obama: Statue Of Liberty Has Been Closed To The Public Long Enough

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Is Uncle Sam shortchanging Lady Liberty?

Three months after Superstorm Sandy, the government won't say when the statue will reopen.

On Monday night there was a demand for a timetable, CBS 2's Tony Aiello reported.

The lady in the harbor sits in her usual spot, minus the up close and personal attention she normally receives. Visitors from Michigan admired the view from afar, disappointed they couldn't get up close.

"We were just talking about how we wanted to go there and go to Ellis Island," Amber Dixon said.

"Sad, really, been a long time, three months is a long time, so it's kind of sad," Everette Binger said.

Senator Chuck Schumer says, yes, Sandy dealt a blow to Liberty Island, destroying one of the boat docks, wiping out walkways and damaging mechanical systems.

"This is the closest you can get to the Statue of Liberty right now, and that's not good enough," Schumer said.

But while the city, state and private businesses have raced to repair and reopen facilities, the U.S. Department of Interior has no timetable for allowing tourists back to Liberty Island.

"Why they're doing such a bad job on the most important property in their domain in the New York area is a mystery," Schumer said.

Late Monday the Department of the Interior responded to Schumer's call for a "hard and fast deadline" It offered a promise to reopen Liberty Island as soon as it's safe to do so.

"As the Secretary reiterated while surveying Hurricane Sandy damage in December, the Department is fully committed to reopening the Statue of Liberty as soon as its safe for guests to return and not a single second later. The Secretary understands the important role the Statue of Liberty and other public lands damaged by the storm play in supporting jobs and fueling New York's economy, and we are exploring every feasible option to reopen the Statue of Liberty as quickly as possible, including opening up Liberty Island with limited services. The health and safety of our guests remains our number one priority," DOI Communication Press Secretary Jessica Kershaw said.

Schumer estimates 400 people have been laid off, both on Liberty Island and with tour companies that have seen a big drop in business.

"I never realized how many people made a living on the Statue of Liberty here in New York Bay. So it needs something to get done, bring people back to the park and back out seeing the Statue of Liberty," said Michael Ruscigno of Statue Cruises.

In a letter to the Obama administration Schumer says of Lady Liberty, "continued closure has an impact on the nation's psyche."

This symbol of welcome to all is currently welcoming no one -- a sad fact three months after the storm.

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