By Helen Cook
New York, Jul 20 (efe-epa).- The island in New York Harbor that is home to the Statue of Liberty accepted visitors Monday for the first time since March as part of the gradual re-opening of the Big Apple, but only a score of people were on hand when the gates opened, reflecting the damage Covid-19 has done to the city’s vital tourism sector.
“In reality there’s nobody here. When we arrived at the ferry we were the only ones,” Carlos Macias, a New Jersey resident who decided to take the opportunity to show his wife and daughter the iconic monument, told Efe.
Taking in a sight that would have been inconceivable four months ago, Liberty Island practically deserted at the height of summer, Macias says it leaves him “sad, because there are not a lot of families interacting.”
But Russian tourists Nicolai and Tasha Zhdan find the absence of crowds refreshing as they recall previous visits to New York.
“It’s wonderful, it’s amazing,” Nicolai says. “Because previous times, a lot of people, we couldn’t take a picture in most popular place. In this case, we take picture without any people.”
While people are free to come to the island and get an up-close glimpse of the statue, the two museums and the interior of Lady Liberty remain closed.
“When we were notified that museums were excluded from Phase 4 of the state’s re-opening plan we quickly moved to adjust our re-opening plan to delay the re-opening of the Statue of Liberty Museum and the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration,” John Piltzecker, superintendent of Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island, said in a statement.
That exclusion means the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the rest of the city’s numerous indoor cultural spaces must also remain shuttered for the time being.
“We will now open access to the grounds of Liberty Island only where outdoor dining and restrooms will be available. Ellis Island, the interior of the Statue of Liberty, and both our museums will remain closed,” Piltzecker said.
The ferries that carry visitors to the island are required to reduce the number of passengers to accommodate social distancing. Masks are required aboard the boats, which are subject to frequent cleaning.
On the island, hand-sanitizer stations are plentiful.
Along with Liberty Island, Phase 4 has brought the re-opening of the Central Park, Bronx, Queens and Prospect Park zoos, as well as the Empire State Building, though only 500 people at a time are allowed inside the skyscraper.
The New York Botanical Garden is set to re-open next week, while filming for movies and television shows – a significant industry in the Big Apple – was allowed to resume Monday.
The city’s two Major League Baseball teams, the Yankees and the Mets, will open their long-delayed season within days, albeit without spectators in the stands. EFE hc/dr