Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New York, New Jersey Spar over Ellis Island Bridge

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New York, New Jersey Spar over Ellis Island Bridge

Article excerpt

THROUGHOUT Ellis Island's history as a port of entry for 12 million immigrants, the only way to get on and off the isolated island was by boat.

Now, there is a battle in Congress over whether to fund a permanent bridge from New Jersey.

The issue pits the Congressional delegations of the two states in a muscle- flexing exercise. Last week, in a rare display of bipartisanship, a group of New York representatives denounced the proposed pedestrian bridge as an example of pork-barrel spending and the desecration of a national monument.

"It violates the spirit of the island," said Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey, who joined with Republican Susan Molinari and Democrat Rep. Jerrold Nadler in opposing the bridge.

Funding for the bridge is sponsored by N.J. Democrat Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who thus far has managed to keep $15 million in funding in the Senate appropriations bill, which will be considered in May. If the funding survives in the Senate, it will still have to get past a joint House-Senate conference committee, since the House rescinded the financing in its own budget bill.

The prospect of a permanent bridge has drawn the ire of a packet of preservation groups. They believe the current ferry ride evokes the feeling of the immigrants who all came and left by boat. "This is like building a monorail to take people down the Grand Canyon," says Phil Weinberg of the New York Parks and Conservation Society. Mr. Lautenberg's press office refers to the complainers as rich peoples' "goody-goody groups."

The Ellis Island dust-up is part of ongoing sniping between the two states. Under former Gov. Jim Florio (D), New Jersey raided the Big Apple to attract Wall Street firms and their back-office operations across the Hudson. Both states have battled in recent years over professional sports teams.

To the New York delegation, the bridge is one more affront. …

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