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Cunningham Bill To Establish Ellis Island Advisory Commission Is Now Law

Senator Sandra Cunningham listens to testimony during the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee hearing.

JERSEY CITY – A measure sponsored by Senator Sandra Bolden Cunningham which establishes the “Ellis Island Advisory Commission,” became law today at a public bill signing at Ellis Island’s Ferry Building.

“For millions of immigrants, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty served as their first view of the United States, after a weeks and sometimes months-long journey in search of more opportunity and a better life,” said Senator Cunningham, D-Hudson. “Regardless of how our ancestors entered this country, this site stands as a reminder of the sacrifices that were made to ensure that the words ‘liberty and justice for all’ ring true. I can’t think of a better way to preserve such an integral part of American history.”

Senator Cunningham’s bill, S-1695, makes the Commission responsible for promoting the proposed Ellis Island Institute as an important cultural center and destination venue. The Commission will also determine how to best utilize any State and private donations.

“Currently, groups like the National Park Service and non-profits like Save Ellis Island, Inc. are working to create the Ellis Island Institute and conference center as a way to help preserve the Island’s history by putting vacant buildings to good use,” said Senator Cunningham. “The Institute would serve as a tourist destination and help boost revenue and create more jobs for area residents.”

The Commission will work with the State and City of New York, when necessary, to determine the best plan of action for the rehabilitation and protection of Ellis Island’s cultural and historic resources, according to Senator Cunningham.

The 20-member Commission will include representatives from the Departments of Environmental Protection, Education, Health and Senior Services and Transportation; four members of the Legislature; and five Governor-appointed members with expertise in immigration, public health and the history of Ellis Island.

The Commission will have one year to report its findings and recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature.

Senator Cunningham noted that the passage of this legislation would not have been possible without the hard work of Assemblymen Anthony Chiappone, D-Bayonne and Jersey City, and Louis Greenwald, D-Camden.

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