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National Park Service plans to reopen Statue of Liberty on July 4

The Statue of Liberty is seen from an aerial view after Liberty Island was hit by Hurricane Sandy in New York, October 31, 2012. REUTERS/Adr
The Statue of Liberty is seen from an aerial view after Liberty Island was hit by Hurricane Sandy in New York, October 31, 2012. REUTERS/Adr

By Daniel Trotta

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The National Park Service plans to reopen the Statue of Liberty to tourists on July 4 after a $59 million job to repair damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, officials said on Tuesday.

Tourists once again will be allowed to ascend the internal staircase to the statue's crown, restoring a source of tourist dollars to New York.

The museum at nearby Ellis Island, where 12 million immigrants entered the United States from 1892 to 1954, will remain closed until further notice.

Some 3.7 million people visited the Statue of Liberty national park in 2011, generating $174 million in economic activity, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told reporters in a conference call.

The crown had reopened to the public on July 4, 2009, after having been closed since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Then the statue on an island in New York Harbor was closed once again after Sandy slammed into the area on October 29.

While the statue itself was unharmed, surging seawater from the storm damaged docks, energy infrastructure and security screening systems, Salazar said.

Officials pledged to announce the park's security arrangements next week, indicating they had resolved differences with the New York Police Department on revamping the screening system. The police department had objected to the park service's initial plan to move the screening station from the dock in Manhattan to Ellis Island.

The Ellis Island museum's utility systems suffered extensive damage, and the National Park Service moved more than 1 million artifacts from the island to protect them, park service Regional Director Dennis Reidenbach told the conference call.

The $59 million repair budget was for both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

Reopening on July "just means so much to New Yorkers and Americans. It's symbolic to us," U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, told the conference call. "After 9/11, they said New York wouldn't come back. We did. And now the opening of the statue is a metaphor that New York's coming back stronger than ever after Sandy."

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Jan Paschal)

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