ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The New York State Capitol Building has re-opened to visitors after being closed due to the pandemic for more than a year.

Besides its architecture, the building is a place for New Yorkers to speak their minds, advocate and connect with lawmakers in their offices, or in the hallways. 

Blair Horner with the New York Public Interest Research Group says the building is the public’s house, paid for by the taxpayer, and while technology can help fill a void, it has its challenges. “If somebody doesn’t want to talk to you when you’re trying to contact them on the phone, they don’t have to answer the phone, but if they’re at the State Capitol, everybody’s fair game and so it’s easier to sort of make your case and in policy making it’s important to hear from all sides,” Horner said.

There’s been some criticism from those on both sides of the aisle that the building could have been opened up sooner. The end of the legislative session where lawmakers scramble to pass their final bills wrapped up last week.

“In New York and Albany, it tends to be sort of a dark place anyway, even pre-pandemic, lots of decisions are made behind closed doors, but I’d rather be hanging out outside the door than waiting for the smoke signal on Zoom,” Horner said.

Free tours of the Capitol will start up again on Monday. Unvaccinated visitors will still need to wear masks.