PICTURES

Statue of Liberty reopening delights tourists

People walk past the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island in New York, October 13, 2013. -- PHOTO:REUTERS
People walk past the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island in New York, October 13, 2013. -- PHOTO:REUTERS
Tourists ride on ship to visit the Statue of Liberty on Oct 13, 2013 in New York City. -- PHOTO: AFP
Tourists ride on ship to visit the Statue of Liberty on Oct 13, 2013 in New York City. -- PHOTO: AFP
Tourists ride a ship to visit the Statue of Liberty on Oct 13, 2013 in New York City. -- PHOTO: AFP
Tourists ride a ship to visit the Statue of Liberty on Oct 13, 2013 in New York City. -- PHOTO: AFP
Tourists pose for pictures during a visit to the Statue of Liberty on Oct 13, 2013 in New York City. -- PHOTO: AFP
Tourists pose for pictures during a visit to the Statue of Liberty on Oct 13, 2013 in New York City. -- PHOTO: AFP
 A Photo services worker stands on front the Statue of Liberty on Oct 13, 2013 in New York City. -- PHOTO: AFP
 A Photo services worker stands on front the Statue of Liberty on Oct 13, 2013 in New York City. -- PHOTO: AFP
The Statue of Liberty looms over crowds of visitors on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, Sunday, Oct 13, 2013, in New York. The Statue of Liberty was back to her shining best on Sunday, reopened to tourists for the first time since falling victim to
The Statue of Liberty looms over crowds of visitors on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, Sunday, Oct 13, 2013, in New York. The Statue of Liberty was back to her shining best on Sunday, reopened to tourists for the first time since falling victim to the United States government shutdown two weeks ago. -- PHOTO: AP

NEW YORK CITY (AFP) - The Statue of Liberty was back to her shining best on Sunday, reopened to tourists for the first time since falling victim to the United States government shutdown two weeks ago.

Basking in glorious autumn weather, American and foreign tourists thronged Battery Park, excitedly taking pictures and streaming on and off boats taking them to the emblem of the American dream .

"It was amazing," said Mr Erick Lira, 28, a businessman from Brazil on holiday with his girlfriend. "It's fantastic."

The couple said they were over the moon to discover that one of the most iconic monuments in the United States was back up and running Sunday, saying they booked their tickets online instantly.

Like many others in the park, they had little interest in the cause of the shutdown - ideological battles between President Barack Obama and House Republicans over the US budget and the country's debt.

Mildly disappointed that the partial reopening had not extended to Ellis Island, they happily headed off instead to Ground Zero, the memorial to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre.

Liberty Island reopened until Oct 17 under a deal between the National Park Service and New York State, which donated around US$370,000 (S$461,300) to keep it operating and partly offset trade losses.

The National Park Service announced other deals with the states of Arizona, Colorado and Utah to reopen tourist sites closed since the US government partial shutdown came into force on Oct 1.

"Statue of Liberty is open!!" said large banners unfurled for the benefit of passing traffic on the main road leading to the pier.

Translator Marco Bedoya, who speaks six languages and works for Statue Cruises, the company that takes visitors out to the island, beamed as he strolled outside the ticket booths.

"People are happy, people are asking me questions," he said.

The company had been forced to offer pre-booked visitors an alternative boat trip round New York harbor, not always popular, or money back when the Statue was closed, but now things are getting back to normal.

"Business now is so much better than before," Mr Bedoya said.

While tourists who booked months ago were turned away by the shutdown, many Sunday had booked online, spur of the moment trade for what is a long weekend with Columbus Day on Monday.

Ms Renee Hockenberry, on holiday from Buffalo with her family, said they had decided celebrate her son's girlfriend's 18th birthday with a visit to New York.

"Excited" and "just happy" were the words she used to describe their feelings at the Battery Park pier in southern Manhattan.

"We thought it was going to be closed." The shutdown hit the Statue of Liberty particularly hard, as it was also closed for eight months after Hurricane Sandy last October.

Mr Alex Berger, a 47-year-old investment banker from Germany, and his partner Vanessa said they also felt lucky to see the statue before flying home on Wednesday.

The US$17 visit was "one of the highlights" of New York, Mr Berger said before heading off to take in the sights of Wall Street.

More than 400 federally managed tourist sites have been closed by the shutdown.

The stalemate is costing US$152 million a day in lost travel-related activity, affecting up to 450,000 American workers, according to the US Travel Association.

Tour guide Jack Stanley swept through Battery Park just after lunch Sunday en route to the pier with a group of trailing holidaymakers.

"It's good," he said. "It should be open. It was silliness by everyone in Washington being a prima donna."