NEW YORK – The island that ushered millions of immigrants into the United States and became a monument to its mosaic of ancestries reopened to visitors Monday for the first time since Superstorm Sandy, adding a chapter to the narrative of hard-won recovery on the eve of the storm’s anniversary.
The Ellis Island Immigration Museum hasn’t fully recovered from the floods that filled its basement; many of its more than 1 million photographs and other artifacts are still in storage, and officials haven’t yet repaired computers the public can use to research forebears. But visitors were able to return to much of the graceful main building.
Sandy’s surge swamped Ellis Island, the entry point for about 12 million newcomers from 1892 to 1954 and a public historic site since 1976. David Luchsinger, the National Park Service superintendent for the island and the Statue of Liberty, arrived the day after Sandy to find doors and windows blown out, pilings strewn on the grounds and the basement full of water, which destroyed the electric, heating, air conditioning and phone systems.
Rebuilding and stormproofing the electrical and other networks without marring the 1900, Beaux-Arts-style building was a challenge to plan and is still a $21 million, 18-month work in progress. Heat is currently running through the building’s original radiators, instead of the modern climate-control system.
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