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Polishing the Golden Door
12/1/2003
Two groups unveil plans to save buildings on Ellis Island's little-seen New Jersey side.

The fates of 30 unrestored buildings on the south side of Ellis Island are being decided right now. Rarely glimpsed by tourists, the island's New Jersey side is a tangle of crumbling brick, broken flagstone and rusted metal. Since the immigration station closed in 1954, the 22 acres comprising the majority of the island have remained untouched, even after one section was restored in 1990. Weeds and weather have taken their toll, breaking windows and shrouding the remains in a cloak of green. The 30 dilapidated buildings include hospital facilities, a sanatorium and a morgue. Immigrants deemed too sick to pass inspection were detained and treated in these facilities. The majority of them were later released and allowed onto the mainland.

The National Park Service (NPS) and the nonprofit Save Ellis Island Foundation have drawn up three options for the decaying buildings. In the first scenario, the structures would be stabilized and furnished with Plexiglas windows and temporary shingles to keep the elements from doing further damage. When the buildings get beyond the point and cost-effectiveness of saving, they will be demolished.

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