Rooftop cocktails in the shadow of Lady Liberty. A view of sleeping rooms for young ladies waiting for their future husbands. Prison cells with the graffiti of enemy aliens from World War Two.
Those amenities will be a big step closer to reality when the U.S. Park Service and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announce a big infusion of economic stimulus money for Ellis Island in New York Harbor Friday.
"It's the whole majesty of New York and New Jersey and the Harbor," said Judy McAlpin of the Save Ellis Island Foundation.
The money will be used to stabilize the huge Baggage and Dormitory building, she said. The building lies just north of the famous main hall, where millions of immigrants first entered America during the first half of the 20th century.
"It has a 270 degree view of the harbor, it's a fabulous location on the Island," said McAlpin.
Though it will take more money to make the 125,000 square foot building ready for the public, McAlpin said this will start the ball rolling. Work will include roof and structure repair and hazardous material removal.
McAlpin said the master plan calls for changing exhibits on the first floor, a conference center on the second floor and banquet and meeting rooms on the third floor. There will also be an open air area for cocktails with a fabulous view of Manhattan and the rest of the harbor. She also hopes the prison cells where enemy aliens were held prior to World War Two will be open to the public.
"The graffiti (in German and Italian) is quite remarkable," said McAlpin.
The century-old building, opened in 1909, did more than just hold baggage. It served as a dormitory for immigrants, including young women coming to America to meet their future husbands for the first time. They would have to wait until their sponsors picked them up. Other immigrants appealing deportation orders or waiting for a family member to be released from the island hospital would also stay there.
The government will spend another $17 million on repairing the crumbling sea wall that protects the island from erosion while the work is underway.