Tourism Off At Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island
December 29, 2002, 3:12 PM EST
By VERENA DOBNIK
Associated Press Writer
NEW YORK -- In the fallout from the Sept. 11 attacks, tourism has
plummeted sharply at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, two
of America's most famous attractions, across the harbor from the
World Trade Center.
Some foreigners are staying away from New York, domestic visitors
are spending fewer days here and tight security remains in effect
at Liberty Island, itself now considered a target for terrorists.
In the past year, about 2.5 million visitors from around the world
rode the ferries from lower Manhattan to Liberty and Ellis islands,
according to the National Park Service, which oversees both sites.
That is half the number who made the trip in 2000, and well below
the more than 4 million who had visited in 2001, before terrorist
hijackers crashed two jetliners into the trade center, prompting
a 100-day shutdown of the two national monuments.
The figures reflect a decline of as much as 20 percent in the number
of foreign tourists, who in normal times stay longer than domestic
tourists, and are more likely to visit the Statue of Liberty and
Ellis Island, with its displays detailing the history of America's
By contrast, the number of domestic visitors to New York City in
general has remained the same or even surpassed pre-Sept. 11 figures
_ about 30 million a year, according to NYC & Company, the city's
And while the city in general has shown signs of a tourism recovery,
various factors keep the two iconic islands in the harbor from drawing
the crowds they once did.
Brian Feeney, spokesman for the National Park Service, said that
because domestic visitors spend fewer days in the city, some decide
to skip the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, a boat ride that
consumes the better part of a day.
In addition, Feeney said, many people assume that all of Liberty
Island is still off limits since the terrorist attack last year.
In fact, only the interior of the 152-foot statue remains closed
One can still wander about the 58-acre island with its seaweed-coated
rocks and wheeling seagulls, gaze up at the green copper figure
of the "Mother of Exiles" and across the water to where the twin
towers formerly stood, less than two miles away.
On a recent winter day at the boarding dock in Battery Park, hundreds
of people still packed a ferry to make that trip, undeterred by
the new security measures that include airport-style metal detectors.
"Seeing the statue still gives me goose bumps!" said Murray Gould,
70, of Potomac, Md., who first sailed into New York harbor in 1938,
barely escaping the Nazis as a 6-year-old Jewish refugee from Poland.
"It's cool! Big and famous!" said Ben Saubert, 12, of Erfurt, Germany.
More than 100 million Americans today can trace their ancestry
to an immigrant who passed through Ellis Island.
Peg Zitko, spokeswoman for the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation
that operates the sites, said winter, with its shorter lines of
tourists, is the ideal time for families to seek information there
about their forebears.
The island's American Family Immigration History Center provides
information on 25 million people who sailed into New York between
1892 and 1924, with computer databases and steamship passenger registers
used to track ancestors.
In the Great Hall where the newcomers were processed, a visitor
sat on an early 20th century bench, trying to capture a sense of
the emotions from the place where people were welcomed _ or turned
away for health or other reasons.
"I can just see all these people on tenterhooks, hoping they'd
get through without coughing, if they were sick," said Shelley Hampshire,
who came with her husband and teenage daughter from Alsager, a small
town in England. "And what if you got split up? One yes, one no?
This is basic human emotion."
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