Hurricane Sandy Recovery


Both Liberty and Ellis Islands were largely submerged by the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy, which made landfall on the evening of October 28, 2012. Liberty Island reopened on July 4, 2013. The Ellis Island Immigration Museum reopened on October 28, 2013, although it remains a work in progress. Elevator access is available to the Great Hall on the second floor and the exhibit spaces on the third floor. Because of the storm, most of the museum collection is currently stored in a climate-controlled facility in Maryland. A temporary ventilation system will be replaced by permanent equipment in late 2014. The exhibit areas on the second and third floors are open despite the absence of many of the artifacts. The National Park Service offers Ranger-guided tours and frequent showings of the documentary film "Island of Hope, Island of Tears." Please take these conditions into consideration when planning your trip to Ellis Island.

Brick pavers dislodged from Sandy's storm surge.

From Flickr (SandyResponseNPS)


On October 29, 2012, flood waters from Hurricane Sandy covered 75% of Liberty Island and almost all of Ellis Island, flooding basements of all buildings with the exception of the Statue and Monument. Winds and flooding from the storm destroyed most of the infrastructure on both islands including; electric, water, sewer, HVAC systems, phone systems, security systems, and radio equipment. The visitor security screening facilities at Battery Park and Liberty State Park were destroyed. The main passenger pier and the work/emergency pier on Liberty Island were severely damaged, as were the perimeter walkway and railings around the island.

The Statue of Liberty is on Liberty Island, a 12 acre island located a mile south of lower Manhattan. Normally, the confines of the New York Harbor protect Liberty Island from extreme weather. However, when Hurricane Sandy hit, Liberty Island was in the direct path of a massive storm surge. Nearby in Battery Park, water rose 13.8 feet (4.2m). On Liberty Island, that meant nearly 75% of the island was under water according to Statue of Liberty Superintendent David Luchsinger.

Luckily, the Statue of Liberty itself did not receive any damage. The Statue's 126-year-old iron framework designed by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel allowed for the Statue of Liberty to withstand the storm's intense winds. However, the Island's utilities, backup generator, and power systems were destroyed. The passenger and auxiliary docks were severely damaged and brick pathways have been uprooted around the Island.

"We're going to get this done as soon as we possibly can because [the Statue of Liberty is] such an important icon for New York and America," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar on December 13, 2012 after a tour of the Island. Salazar also estimated that repairs to both Ellis Island and Liberty Island may be as much as $59 million.

Fact sheet: Recovery After Hurricane Sandy, July 2013


Repairs and Restoration

  • On July 4, 2013, Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty reopened to the public. Work continues on several projects at the island. This work should not have a significant impact on visitors.
  • The primary and secondary heating and electrical systems that serve the Island are being replaced. The damaged system includes the boilers for the heating system and primary switchgear for the electrical system that were distributed between the basements of the Administration Building and the Concessions Building. Similar damage took place at Ellis Island.
  • On Liberty Island, the improvements necessary to create the central plant include a new elevated structural floor. Planners will decide how to protect similar equipment at Ellis Island.
  • The work dock on Liberty Island was removed and replaced with support from the Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration.
  • Construction on the Main visitor dock will begin when the Service Dock is open for public use.
  • A temporary 40' X 300' floating barge is in place for visitors to maximize the number of visitors to Liberty Island.
Left: The auxiliary dock as seen from the Statue's crown. Right: Construction crews dismantling and removing the destroyed dock.
Left: The island's brick pathway pre-storm. Right: The same pathway after the hurricane.
Left: The auxiliary dock pre-storm. Right: The auxiliary dock after the hurricane. The dock was sheared from its pilings.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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