Philly visitor center can’t re-open even without Washington dollars

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 Tourists attempt to enter the Independence Visitor Center on Independence Mall, Tuesday morning in Philadelphia, Pa. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Tourists attempt to enter the Independence Visitor Center on Independence Mall, Tuesday morning in Philadelphia, Pa. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

An attempt to re-open the Independence Visitor Center has fallen on deaf ears at the National Park Service.  

Even though a nonprofit runs the visitor center, it receives federal funding and its Sixth and Market streets building is on federal property, so it has become a victim of the shutdown.  With some National Park Service facilities re-opening using state dollars, visitor center CEO James Cuorato says he tried unsuccessfully to do the same in Philadelphia.

“The response was that because we have received federal money in the past and because we will theoretically received federal money in the future, we’re not permitted to open now even though we could do so without any federal money at this time,” Cuorato said.

Albert Lee is one of the more than 30 workers left without a paycheck since the visitor center shut. He is very upset with Congress.

“I voted for people who I thought were smarter than me and made better decisions than I do, apparently I was wrong,” Lee said.

Tiffany Weber also wishes she could go back to work at the center.

“It’s the first time I have ever been in this situation and really my job at the Independence Visitor center gives me stability and I need it to grow and make it through all these changes and know what I need to do, financially speaking.”

In the meantime, Cuorato says the center has set up a one-person information desk at the Lights of Liberty show at Sixth and Chestnut streets. He said he hopes it will help a few of the 12,000 people who would normally use the facility.

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