w_jooss asked this question on 4/17/2000:
Is the Statue of Liberty on the soil of New York or New Jersey?
cassius622 gave this response on 4/17/2000:
Interesting question! I'm enclosing the response to this question from the Statue of Liberty "Frequently asked questions", and also the text from a cited newspaper. It looks like PART of Ellis Island is New Jersey Territory, but the Statue of Liberty is owned by New York State, and probably sits on NY land....
The ownership of Liberty Island has never been questioned as New York Territory. It was owned privately in the 18th century and known as Bedloe's Island, eventually acquired by the State of New York, governed under the jurisdiction of New York City. The report you heard about was a dispute over Ellis Island where the immigration center is located, Northwest of Liberty Island in New York harbor. In May 1998, New York and New Jersey went to Federal Court to resolve the ownership of Ellis Island. The New York Times of 31 May, 1998 has a complete story.
May 31, 1998 NEW YORK TIMESPride, Prejudice and Border War Bluster By JOE SHARKEY (LEN RIDGE , N.J.)With its brassy boardwalk, bar and shopping-mall culture, New Jersey is the ancestral home of the attitudinal T-shirt -- the ones that say things like "I'm Not as Think as You Drunk I Am" in blurry letters. Little surprise, then, that Gov. Christine Todd Whitman chose to proclaim her state's border victory over New York last week by gleefully displaying a T-shirt that said, "Ellis Island, N.J." The Governor was celebrating a triumph in a once-obscure dispute between New Jersey and New York over boundaries in the middle of the Hudson River. In a 6-to-3 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that 24.2 acres of Ellis Island landfill were actually in New Jersey, and not in New York as everyone had assumed since the island was expanded starting in the late 19th century to process the arrival of 12 million immigrants. The original 3.3 acres -- on which the main hall and immigration museum stand -- remain in New York. No matter which state map it is on, Ellis Island is a national park, owned by the Federal Government. Each year 1.6 million tourists visit it. Last week, reporters dispatched to the island to get reaction to the border victory found a wall of people who might as well have been wearing those T-shirts that say, "Whatever." In short, the public seemed to care little about state sovereignty over the revered pile of land (and landfill) with the breathtaking views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline -- the place where the ancestors of an estimated 40 percent of today's Americans first set foot in the NewWorld. On the other hand, politicians and their amen choruses among the news media seemed to care quite a lot. Mrs. Whitman, for example, proclaimed herself "delighted that the Supreme Court has officially recognized New Jersey's place in history," and triumphantly set off for a Republican Party fund-raiser in Ohio, where she asserted that the Ellis Island victory was proof that she still had relevance as a politician. A Grudge Match Never one to remain on the sidelines, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York City scoffed at the idea that New Jersey had any valid claim on the island's mythology. Mr. Giuliani said he was certain his immigrant grandfather hadn't told himself, "I'm coming to New Jersey" when he boarded a ship in Genoa. "He knew he was coming to the streets of New York," Mr. Giuliani said. Richard Finnegan, a professor of politics at Stone Hill College in Easton, Mass., said, "It seems to me there was a lot of 'My state can lick your state' in all this." Professor Finnegan said he was astonished at "the exaggerated attention to a matter that most people think is pretty minor at best.""I mean, we aren't exactly talking the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act here," he added.The Supreme Court case took five years and generated 2,000 documents and 4,000 pages of testimony, prompting Justice David H. Souter to remark ruefully in his majority opinion on the "succession of legal fees and expenses arising from interstate boundary disputes." The litigation undoubtedly cost New Jersey taxpayers far more than can ever be recouped from the state's newly staked claim to a portion of the sales tax revenue generated by island's gift and snack shops. Professor Finnegan said he was intrigued by the Ellis Island news bubble because of its similarity to another recent scene in modern political theater. He was referring to a ploy by Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, who earlier this year slipped the following words into a routine bill authorizing Federal money for research on the Great Lakes: "The term Great Lakes includes Lake Champlain." Thus, Lake Champlain, a comparative sliver of water between Vermont and New York, suddenly became the sixth Great Lake -- to the delight of regional politicians, area Chambers of Commerce and the local news media, but to the horror of national geographers and historians. The law was quickly rewritten to withdraw the distinction, but the brouhaha lifted Mr. Leahy's stock. In the end, Professor Finnegan said, both the Lake Champlain and Ellis Island furors were prime examples of what he called "policy asentertainment." "This Ellis Island commotion really represents the infantilization of politics," he added, "driving it down to the seventh-grade level: 'My state whipped your state.' " Some reaction in New Jersey seemed to support that notion. "It's about pride," crowed an editorial celebrating the Ellis Island victory in The Star Ledger of Newark, New Jersey's largest newspaper. "This was really about respect, not money," said Bret Schundler, the Mayor of Jersey City, who nevertheless noted that Ellis Island, N.J., is potentially part of Jersey City's urban empowerment zone.History vs. Commerce The subject of commercial development is barely submerged under any discussion of change in landlords on Ellis Island. New Jersey has not indicated whether it might pressure the National Park Service to allow more development on Ellis Island, N.J. But preservationists have been fretting for years about the fate of that part of the island, which contains the medical buildings where the sick and contagious were once treated. In 1992, preservationists blocked a Park Service plan that would have allowed a developer to demolish the old buildings and build a hotel or conference center. Now they fear similar proposals. The idea of Ellis Island as a national park that needs money for historical preservation has been swamped by the hoopla in the past week, said Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy. "All the talk has been bragging rights and sales tax and who gets what -- but we're missing the history part," she said. "Ellis Island is the only national park in the country that some people look on as a development site waiting for a hotel and conference center."