News World US government shutdown blocks tourists’ access to landmarks

US government shutdown blocks tourists’ access to landmarks

Aspiring visitors to the Statue of Liberty had their hopes dashed by this sign. AP/Ben Von Klemperer
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Tourists who came to Battery Park in lower Manhattan hoping to catch a ferry to the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor got an unpleasant surprise on Saturday, learning the must-see destination was closed thanks to a US government shutdown.

The National Park Service announced on Friday afternoon that it would close the historic statue and nearby Ellis Island to visitors if Congress failed to reach a funding deal by midnight.

Apparently, not everyone got the word.

“If they knew it was being shut down, they should have told us,” said Amparo Mendez, 17, an Argentine exchange student who came to Battery Park with a friend, having purchased tickets online last week to visit the statue and Ellis Island.

“We came with the notion to see the Statue of Liberty, and it’s not the same to see it from here,” her friend, Brunella Pettoroso, 16, said, looking out over the harbour at the towering, green-tinged statue, a symbol of American democracy.

Neither of them were aware of the government shutdown, and when the Washington deadlock was explained to them, Mendez rolled her eyes.
“We’re not coming back,” Pettoroso said.

In Washington, open-air parks and monuments remained open despite the shutdown, including the Lincoln Memorial and the National Mall, where thousands of protesters gathered for the second annual Women’s March, staged on the first anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Also open was the Smithsonian Institution, but its museums and the National Zoo will close on Monday if lawmakers still have not reached a deal, it said in a statement.

Dallas Kay, a 26-year-old restaurant worker from Bend, Oregon, arrived at the Lincoln Memorial just after dawn on Saturday. He said he hoped for a quick resolution of the dispute, especially to keep national monuments and parks open.

“These monuments and parks belong to the people,” he said. “Them getting shut down is a travesty.”

However, Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan, where large groups of visitors often gather for ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty, it was unusually quiet for a Saturday.

“People have been a little bummed out, but they’re not mad at us,” said Matthew Rutter, an employee of Statue Cruises, which operates ferries to the islands, among New York’s most popular tourist destinations. “They are mad at the government.”

Stephen O’Malley, a retired medical professional from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, bought tickets months ago, when he and his wife began planning a trip to the statue and Ellis Island, the gateway for millions of US immigrants in the late 19th and 20th centuries. The couple both blamed Washington lawmakers.