Starting next week, Ellis Island will finally be open to the public again. A short distance away from the Statue of Liberty, from 1892 to 1954 the island was the place where around 10.5 million immigrants first stepped foot in America. It was there that new immigrants from the Old World would land and go through the necessary legal process of getting American citizenship which back then only took a few hours. The immigration station closed in 1954, was made part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument in 1966, and is now a museum dedicated to the important role immigration played in America’s history.
Ellis Island was closed off to the general public last year after Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc in New York Harbor. Of all of the historical places in the area Ellis Island probably got the worst of Sandy’s wrath. For comparison, Liberty Island was able to reopen in time for the Fourth of July this year. Thankfully many of the museum’s artifacts were removed and safely stored prior to the hurricane hitting but even a year later the damage has not been fully repaired yet. Why then is the island reopening? I think it has to do with timing and money. Next week will be both the one-year anniversary of Sandy hitting and the 127th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty being dedicated which would make it a good time to coordinate the reopening. The financial reason is that both the park and the ferries have had a brutal year financially. The number of people visiting Liberty and Ellis Islands are less than half of the number of people that visited in 2012. For all of those reasons Ellis Island is now back up and running and ready to accept more people to its shores again.
Notice how they’re both on the New Jersey side of the river though.