Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty

The National Park Service is temporarily shutting down Jersey City-based ferry service to Ellis and Liberty Islands from January 3 to March 11 according to a new alert on the agency’s website. Service will resume Saturday, March 12.

During that time, ferry access to and from both islands will continue from Statue Cruises at Pier 6 in Battery Park, Manhattan.

John W. Piltzecker, superintendent of the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island, said the service from Liberty State Park was being discontinued mainly for monetary reasons.

Until about a year ago, passengers departing from Liberty State Park for Liberty and/or Ellis Islands would pass through a security shed before boarding a dockside barge leading to the ferry. In the winter of 2020, that barge partially sank, and the NPS moved the ferry slip to the piers outside the historic Central Railroad Terminal. That area is wider, requiring more police officers than before. Piltzecker said it would be too costly for the NPS to continue paying both for this extra security force and for anticipated snow removal during the winter.

Grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Highway Administration, supplemented by N.J. State Parks Service’s capital reserve fund, will be provided for construction of a new barge. Piltzecker could not say when that work would be completed.

A projected “lack of visitation” to the Statue and Ellis Island during the winter months from the Jersey City embarkation point also factored into the NPS decision, Piltzecker said.

About 20 percent of visitors to Liberty and Ellis Islands are from New Jersey, according to the superintendent.

Sam Pesin, president of Friends of Liberty State Park, called the NPS decision to shut down ferry service from New Jersey “unfortunate and unfair” to Garden State residents.

He said it was also unfair to out-of-state visitors who’ve booked hotels in the area intending to tour the Statue and Ellis Island and who, he added, would likely be unaware that there will be no New Jersey-based ferry service to those destinations.

Piltzecker noted that “75 percent of the people who come to see the Statue buy their tickets in advance,” so those folks will likely learn about the change from the vendor.

But to minimize inconvenience to travelers, he said the ferry operator and the New Jersey Park Service would likely further publicize the service cutback.

Nevertheless, Pesin said that NPS “should have pushed for additional federal funding to keep the ferry service from Liberty State Park going.” If New Jersey Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker had known about it, he added, they would have pressed for the monies needed.

Ron Leir has been a journalist since 1972. That includes a 37-year stint as a reporter, copy reader and assistant editor with The Jersey Journal, followed by a decade as a reporter with The Observer in...