After 200 Years, Liberty Island Loses Last Resident

NEW YORK -
David Luchsinger, superintendent of Statue of Liberty National Monument and last resident of Liberty Island, in this Nov. 30, 2012 photo. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
David Luchsinger, superintendent of Statue of Liberty National Monument and last resident of Liberty Island, in this Nov. 30, 2012 photo. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

For the first time since Liberty Island was settled more than 200 years ago, Lady Liberty will become the only resident of the famous island appealing to the higher morals of the country.

The Luchsinger family is finally calling it quits. The former superintendent of the national landmark which was buffeted by a superstorm that gutted his home, is concerned that rising tide brought on by what he fears is climate change may end life on the isle. David Luchsinger and his wife, Debbie, are moving out following his imminent retirement, ending inhabited living of the huddled masses in the shadow of The Torch.

“I’m officially the last resident of Liberty Island,” Luchsinger told The New York Times.

The island, formerly a military reservation, was renamed Liberty Island — unofficially for more than 100 years but formally in 1956 by executive order — in honor of its most famous resident.

But alongside their giant neighbor lived families who tolerated the crowds by day and the loneliness at night; the constant knocking for use of the restroom or a drink of water and the struggle to get to school by ferry every morning.

The five members of the Moffitt family lived there in the 1980s, when a thick fog could keep them home from school for the day, shopping for milk was a three-hour trek, and David Moffitt, the superintendent, had his schedule dictated by that of the ferry.

“The best part was that we had the most magnificent view of Manhattan. During a lightning storm, you could watch the lightning bolts hit the World Trade Center and the Empire State Building,” Moffitt said. “The worst part was being stuck on the island. You knew there were great things going on at night, over there.”

“Being a moody teenager,” said Andrea Delfin, the eldest Moffitt child, now with two teenagers of her own, “when I needed my space from everybody, I would walk around the island. The statue would be all lit up, and it would be really beautiful.”

Over the years, their unique address — NPS1, Liberty Island, N.Y., N.Y. — has made Liberty Island families an object of fascination and not infrequent media coverage. An article in The New York Times in 1986 profiled the Moffitts and their neighbors at a time when the island’s inhabitants included 14 residents, nine adults and five children.

But they moved out about 10 years ago, and the Luchsingers replaced them. They lived on the island until Superstorm Sandy last year destroyed his home and left his beloved land mass a pile of concrete stubble. He moved in with his mother-in-law in Holmdel, N.J., but decided to move out permanently when the city said they will not rebuild his home.

While park policy until now mandated that a member of management reside on the island, advances in security have made that unnecessary. There are daily patrols, a 24-hour security team, and a high-tech system to monitor the perimeter of the island. So when two Frenchmen paddled secretly to the island one night a few years ago, they were greeted on their arrival by half a dozen men who knew they were coming.

In 1968, an article in The Times described a group of Liberty Island’s children, including Kevin Hinckley, 9, doing homework on the ferry as it took them to Governors Island to go to school.

“‘And when there’s really a bad storm, it’s horrible,’ Kevin said,” the article recorded, “adding that he’d ‘like to live out West with horses and no water.’”

One newspaper account even told of what was probably the only time a politician went to Liberty Island to ask for the votes of its five voters.

In 1960, Paul Castelli was a Republican running for State Assembly. An enterprising person, he took the ferry out to Liberty Island in search of its five votes and perhaps get some unique coverage of his campaign.

Castelli was rewarded on the second count but not the first. The Times article, “Ferry-Riding Vote-Seeker Doesn’t Even Get His Foot in the Door,” noted that of the five voters in residence, “one had died, one had moved, one was away and the other two refused to open their doors to Mr. Castelli.”

Now, with Liberty Island resigning itself to living alone with its most famous resident, some former inhabitants see it as the end of an era.

“I think it’s sad, her being out there all by herself,” Andrea Delfin said.