Ellis Island Museum Re-Open ‘Not Likely’ in 2013

March 26, 2013

The Ellis Island Immigration Museum, which sustained severe damage to its infrastructure from the surging waters of Superstorm Sandy, is not expected to re-open to the public this year, the National Park Service said.

The Oct. 29 storm bought water levels as high as 8 feet (2.4 meters) to Ellis Island, adjacent to the home of the Statue of Liberty, destroying boilers and electrical systems.

The museum “is under repair from storm damage and will not likely be open in 2013,” the park service said Friday, as it announced that security screening for visitors to the Statue of Liberty would be moving to temporary facilities on Ellis Island.

Spokeswoman Linda Friar told The Associated Press on Sunday that the site was still without power, which was continuing to have a negative impact on the physical condition of the building.

Re-opening it to the public is a multi-step process, she said, which includes getting the power back, restoring the physical condition of the building and then making sure the museum contents are back in place.

The museum, housed in the main building on the grounds, showcases the stories of the millions of immigrants who passed through there to start their lives in the United States, and contains all kinds of documents, photographs and other artifacts.

Those artifacts survived the storm unscathed, but more than 1 million items had to be moved to storage facilities because it has been impossible to maintain the climate-controlled environment needed for their preservation. Those items would need to be put back in place before the museum could re-open.

In the days after the storm, there also had to be a controlled detonation of explosives on the island. The park service said the explosives had been kept there for the training of bomb-sniffing dogs but had been ruined by the storm and needed to be destroyed.

Nearby Liberty Island, where about 75 percent of its 12 acres (5 hectares) was flooded, also suffered damage, but the Statue of Liberty was unharmed. Officials said earlier last week that the Statue of Liberty will re-open to the public by July 4.

On Friday, the park service said visitors will board cruise ships from either Battery Park in lower Manhattan or Liberty State Park, New Jersey, and stop at Ellis Island for a security check. National Park officials said visitors will then continue to Liberty Island for a secondary screening.

The New York Police Department initially expressed concerns about the plan, and said moving screening out of lower Manhattan was being done against its recommendation. The park service and the NYPD then released a statement saying there would continue to be conversations about security protocols before passengers board the ferries in lower Manhattan.

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