Secretary of the Interior Visits Ellis Island

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A window in one of dozens of unrestored Elis Island historic buildings

A window in one of dozens of unrestored Elis Island historic buildings

Deferred maintenance - a window into one of dozens of unrestored Ellis Island historic buildings. Just a handful of the 33 structures through which generations of immigrants passed have been preserved. The National Park site was visited by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar Friday.

During his confirmation hearing he promised Senator Bob Menendez that he would come visit both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island which are both under the jurisdiction of Salazar's Department. Menendez, Congressman Albio Sires of Hudson County and Congressman Anthony Weiner of Brooklyn also lobbied Salazar to reopen the crown of the Statue of Liberty to tourists. It has been closed since 9/11 over public safety concerns.

The Congressional delegation made the case that improving access at the Statue of Liberty and restoring Ellis Island would help draw more tourists and stimulate the economy. On the Statue of Liberty Secretary Salazar said he was waiting for a safety review of the site due out in April. He said that the full restoration of Elliis Island made both historic and economic development sense.

Project boosters say such a comprehensive rehabilitation would cost close to $300 milliion. Nationwide the Park Service has 60,000 assets that range from iconic monuments to major historic sites. Over several years the Department has developed a huge backlog of work needing to be done at these sites. The agency estimates it has $9 billion in deferred maintenance and rehab work.