History and museums
Liberty Island is a federally owned island in Upper New York Bay in the United States, best known as the location of the Statue of Liberty. The island is an exclave of the New York City borough of Manhattan, surrounded by the waters of Jersey City, New Jersey. Long known as Bedloe's Island, it was renamed by an act of the United States Congress in 1956. In 1937, by proclamation 2250 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt it became part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument and in 1966, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of Statue of Liberty National Monument, Ellis Island and Liberty Island.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the island has a land area of 59,558 square meters, or 14.717 acres, which is the property of the federal government. Liberty Island is located in the Upper New York Bay surrounded by the waters of Jersey City, Hudson County, New Jersey. Liberty Island is one of the islands that are part of the borough of Manhattan in New York. The historical developments which led to this construction created the rare situation of an exclave of one state, New York, being situated in another, New Jersey.
The island is operated by the National Park Service, and since September 11, 2001, guarded by around-the-clock patrols of the United States Park Police Marine Patrol Unit. Liberty Island is 2,000 feet (610 m) east of Liberty State Park in Jersey City and is 1.58 statute miles (2.6 kilometers) southwest of Battery Park in Lower Manhattan. Public access is permitted only by ferries from either of the two parks, which serve the national monument, also stopping at Ellis Island. Hornblower Cruises and Events, operating under the name Statue Cruises, holds the exclusive concession for ferry service to and from the island.
At the time of European colonialization of the Hudson River estuary in the 17th century, much of the west side Upper New York Bay contained large tidal flats which hosted vast oyster beds, a major source of food for the Lenape people who lived there at the time. There were several islands which were not completely submerged at high tide. Three of them (later to be known as Liberty, Ellis, and Black Tom) were given the name Oyster Islands (oester eilanden) by the settlers of New Netherland, the first European colony in the Mid-Atlantic states. The oyster beds would remain a major source of food for nearly three centuries. Landfilling after the start of the 20th century, particularly by Lehigh Valley Railroad and Central Railroad of New Jersey, eventually obliterated the beds, engulfed one island and brought the shoreline much closer to the others.
After the surrender of Fort Amsterdam by the Dutch to the British in 1664, the English governor Richard Nicolls granted the island to Captain Robert Needham. It was sold to Isaac Bedloe on December 23, 1667. The island was retained by his estate until 1732 when it was sold for five shillings to New York merchants Adolphe Philipse and Henry Lane. During their ownership, the island was temporarily commandeered by the city of New York to establish a smallpox quarantine station.
In 1746, Archibald Kennedy (later 11th Earl of Cassilis) purchased the island and a summer residence was established.
In 1753, the island is described in an advertisement (in which "Bedlow's" had become "Bedloe's") as being available for rental:
To be Let. Bedloe's Island, alias Love Island, together with
the dwelling-house and lighthouse being finely situated for a tavern, where all kinds of garden stuff, poultry, etc., may be easily raised for the shipping outward bound, and from where any quantity of pickled oysters may be transported ; it abounds with English rabbits."
In 1756, Kennedy allowed the island to again be used as a smallpox quarantine station, and on February 18, 1758, the Corporation of the City of New York bought the island for £1000 for use as a pest house.
When the British troops occupied New York Harbor in the lead-up to the American Revolutionary War, the island was to be used for housing for Tory refugees, but on April 2, 1776, the buildings constructed on the island for their use were burned to the ground.
On February 15, 1800, the New York State Legislature ceded the island to the federal government, for the construction of a defensive fort to be built there (along with Governor's Island and Ellis Island). Construction of a land battery on the island in the shape of an 11-point star began in 1806 and was completed in 1811. Following the War of 1812, the star-shaped fortification was named Fort Wood after Lt. Col Eleazer Derby Wood who was killed in the Siege of Fort Erie in 1813. The granite fortification followed a star fort layout with 11 prominent bastions.
By the time it was chosen for the Statue of Liberty, the base was disused and its walls were used as the distinctive base for the Statue of Liberty given by France for the 1886 centenary celebrations. It had become a part of the base for the Statue of Liberty after the island was first seen by the statue's sculptor. The National Park Service (which had been created in 1916) took over operations of the island in two stages: 2 acres (8,100 m2) in 1933, and the remainder in 1937. The military installation was completely removed by 1944.
A national monument, the Statue of Liberty is a gift from the people of France to mark the American Centennial. It was agreed that the Congress would authorize the acceptance of the statue by the President of the United States, and that the War Department would facilitate construction and presentation.
The construction of the statue was completed in France in July 1884. The cornerstone was laid on August 5, 1884, and after some funding delays, construction of the pedestal was finished on April 22, 1886. The statue arrived in New York Harbor on June 17, 1885, on board the French frigate Isère, was stored for eleven months in crates waiting for its pedestal to be finished, and was then reassembled in four months. On October 28, 1886, the Statue of Liberty was unveiled by President Grover Cleveland. The name Liberty Island was made official by Congress in 1956.
There have been a number of disputes regarding the jurisdictional status of Liberty Island.
An unusual clause in the 1664 colonial land grant that outlined the territory the proprietors of New Jersey would receive reads: "westward of Long Island, and Manhitas Island and bounded on the east part by the main sea, and part by Hudson's river" rather than at the river's midpoint, as was common in other colonial charters.
When the Province of New Jersey was separated from the Province of New York in 1674 it was argued that Staten Island belonged to the former. Then governor Edmund Andros directed that all islands in the bay that could be circumnavigated within 24 hours were part of New York. Captain Christopher Billopp sailed around it within the allotted time and was soon thereafter granted a manor at its southern tip. The border came to be understood as being along the shore of the Hudson River, the Upper New York Bay, the Kill van Kull, and Arthur Kill.
In 1824 the City of New York attempted to assert a jurisdictional monopoly over the growing steam ferry service in New York Harbor in Gibbons v. Ogden. It was deemed by the court that interstate transport would be regulated by the federal government. This did not resolve the border issue. In 1830, New Jersey planned to bring suit, but the matter was resolved with a compact between the states ratified by US Congress in 1834 which set the boundary line between them as the midpoint of the shared waterways. This was later confirmed by the US Supreme Court in a 1908 case which also expounded on the compact.
In 1987, US Representative Frank J. Guarini and Gerald McCann, then Mayor of Jersey City, sued New York City, contending that New Jersey should have dominion over Liberty Island because it is on the New Jersey side of the state line. By default, since the court chose not to hear the case, the existing legal status was unchanged. Portions of the island that are above water are part of New York, while riparian rights to all of the submerged land surrounding the statue belong to New Jersey. The southwestern section, 4.17 acres (1.69 ha), of the island was created by land reclamation.
A 1997 United States Supreme Court decision involved such riparian rights around nearby Ellis Island. Being mostly constructed of artificial infill, New Jersey argued and the court agreed that the 1834 compact covered only the natural parts of the island, and not the portions added by infill. Thus it was agreed that the parts of the island made of filled land belonged to New Jersey while the original natural part belonged to New York. This proved impractical to administer and New Jersey and New York subsequently agreed to share jurisdiction of the entire island. This special situation only applies to Ellis Island and part of Shooter's Island.
Liberty Island has been owned by the federal government since 1801, first as military installation and now as a national landmark. Statue of Liberty National Monument, Ellis Island and Liberty Island, listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1966, encompasses land in both states control of which is superseded by the United States. The undisputed boundary between New Jersey and New York is in the center of the Hudson River and the Upper New York Bay, with Liberty Island situated well on the New Jersey side of the water line with Liberty Island itself an exclave of the State of New York and a part of New York City, allowing the state and city of New York to retain sovereignty of Liberty Island, serve process there and collect sales tax from Liberty Island souvenir shops.
In response to a FAQ about whether the Statue of Liberty is in New York or New Jersey, the National Park Service, which oversees Liberty Island, cites the 1834 compact. Question 127 on a naturalization examination piloted in 2006 asks "Where is the Statue of Liberty?" The U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services gives "New York Harbor" and "Liberty Island" as preferred answers, but notes that "New Jersey," "New York," "New York City," and "on the Hudson" are acceptable.
The Statue of Liberty itself is claimed as a symbol by both New York and New Jersey. It was featured on New York license plates from 1986 through 2000 and on a special New Jersey license plate celebrating Liberty State Park in Jersey City. The Statue is also seen on the New York State Quarter. The national monument was the symbol of the Central Railroad of New Jersey, still used by the Raritan Valley Line. (The Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal is nearby).
Though it is uninhabited, the United States Geological Survey includes it as part of New York's 8th congressional district. Both New York City and Jersey City have assigned the island lot numbers. Utility services, including electricity, water, and sewage, to Liberty and Ellis Islands are provided from the New Jersey side. Mail is delivered from Battery Park.