MetroFocus: October 19, 2022

UNFORGOTTEN NEW YORK:  ROOSEVELT ISLAND, WASHINGTON SQUARE ARCH, AND ELLIS ISLAND

On this special edition of MetroFocus, the founder and director of Unforgotten Films, Aaron Asis, joins us once again to showcase some of New York’s landmarks.  First, a look at an abandoned smallpox hospital on Roosevelt Island, Renwick Ruin, which is the city’s only landmark ruin.  Then, we talk about the lesser-known history of the famous Washington Square Park Arch and peak inside the arch’s stairwell, which very few people ever get to see.  Finally, we go to Ellis Island to explore how the history of the island can continue to teach and inform us about our own views on immigration today. 

TRANSCRIPT

> TONIGHT, WE'LL TAKE YOU INSIDE THREE ICONIC NEW YORK CITY LANDMARKS, SOME YOU MAY KNOW ALREADY, AND SOME THAT YOU MAY BE LESS FAMILIAR WITH, AS WE EXPLORE THEIR FORGOTTEN HISTORIES.

IN PARTNERSHIP WITH UNFORGIVEN FILMS, WE'LL LOOK AT ROOSEVELT ISLAND RENWICK RUIN, ELLIS ISLAND AND HOW MUCH THESE HISTORIC STRUCTURES STILL HAVE TO TEACH US ABOUT NEW YORK CITY'S PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE.

ALL THAT AND MORE AS 'METROFOCUS' STARTS RIGHT NOW.

♪♪

> THIS IS 'METROFOCUS' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD, AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND.

BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, JANET THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO THIS SPECIAL EDITION OF 'METROFOCUS.'

I AM JACK FORD.

NEW YORK CITY IS PERHAPS THE MOST RECOGNIZABLE CITY IN THE WORLD DUE TO THE CITY'S ICONIC SKYLINE AND THE MANY NOTABLE LANDMARKS THAT ARE SCATTERED ACROSS THE CITY.

WHILE SOME OF THESE LANDMARKS AND THEIR HISTORIES ARE CELEBRATED WORLDWIDE, THERE ARE COUNTLESS OTHERS THAT REMAIN UNDERAPPRECIATED, WHOSE STORIES MAY WELL HAVE BEEN LOST TO TIME.

ONE ORGANIZATION CALLED UNFORGOTTEN FILMS IS LOOKING TO CHANGE ALL THAT WITH A VIDEO SERIES SHOWCASING THE LESSER KNOWN AND HARDER TO ACCESS MONUMENTS IN NEW YORK CITY.

THEY HELP THAT THE VIDEO SERIES CANNOT ONLY ENLIGHTEN THE PUBLIC ABOUT THESE IMPORTANT SIGHTS, BUT DEMONSTRATE THE WAYS CREATIVE THINKING CAN HELP SHAPE FUTURE PRIORITIES FOR FUTURE CITIES.

JOINING US TO PRESENT THE UNFORGOTTEN FILM SERIES AND ALSO TALK ABOUT HISTORY AND CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE OF NEW YORK CITY'S UNDERAPPRECIATED MONUMENTS IS AARON ASIS.

HE IS THE FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR OF UNFORGOTTEN FILMS, AND WE'RE DELIGHTED TO HAVE HIM JOIN US AGAIN HERE ON 'METROFOCUS.'

AARON, WELCOME.

GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN.

JACK, IT'S A PLEASURE.

SO LET'S START OFF, WE'RE GOING TO THROW TO SOME CLIPS OF SOME OF THE FILMS YOU'VE DONE.

BEFORE THAT, GIVE US A SENSE OF WHY IT WAS YOU BELIEVED THERE WAS A NEED FOR UNFORGOTTEN FILMS.

YEAH, I MEAN, IT'S A GREAT QUESTION, AND IT'S A STARTING POINT FOR ALL OF THIS TYPE OF WORK.

NEW YORK CITY IS SUCH A HISTORY-RICH CITY.

HISTORY IS MULTIFACETED, AND I THINK WE ARE INUNDATED WITH ALL KINDS OF THINGS IN CITY TO NEW BUILDINGS TO OLD HISTORY TO OBVIOUS THINGS.

I THINK WHEN WE HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO LOOK A LITTLE DEEPER AND UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT FROM WHERE WE FROM AND FURTHER APPRECIATE SOME OF THE LANDMARKS AND HISTORIES THAT ARE LESS OBVIOUS TO PEOPLE, THEY ADD A REAL BREATH OF PERSPECTIVE TO HOW WE LOOK AT THE WORLD AND HOW WE APPRECIATE OUR CITY AND WHERE IT CAME FROM.

AND AS WE GO THROUGH THESE FILMS, YOU'RE GOING LEARN A BUNCH OF NEW THINGS YOU DIDN'T THINK ABOUT BEFORE.

AND HOPEFULLY IT WILL HELP YOU UNDERSTAND AND APPRECIATE YOUR PLACE IN THIS CITY IN A DIFFERENT WAY.

AND I CAN TELL YOU HAVING LOOKED AT SOME OF THESE, YOU DO COME AWAY FROM IT SAYING WOW, I DIDN'T KNOW THAT.

WHICH I'M SURE AS A FILMMAKER IS WHAT YOU WANT TO DO.

A COUPLE OF CLIPS OF THESE IF WE COULD.

LET ME START OFF WITH THIS ONE.

SHOW FOLKS WHAT YOU PUT TOGETHER ABOUT THE RENWICK RUIN, WHICH IS NEW YORK CITY'S ONLY LANDMARK RUIN, WHICH IS LOCATED ON ROOSEVELT ISLAND.

LET'S TAKE A LOOK.

♪♪

THE RENWICK RUIN WAS ORIGINALLY BUILT IN 1856 ON THE SOUTHERN END OF ROOSEVELT ISLAND AS PART OF A SERIES OF PRISONS AND HOSPITALS CONSTRUCTED ON THE ISLAND DURING THAT TIME.

DESIGNED BY ARCHITECT JAMES RENWICK JR. AS OUR NATION'S FIRST HOSPITAL DEDICATED TO THE TREATMENT OF SMALLPOX, IT STANDS AS OUR CITY'S ONLY LANDMARK RUIN.

BUT AS THE STRUCTURE CONTINUES TO SLOWLY DETERIORATE, EFFORTS TO STABILIZE THE RUIN AND INCREASE PUBLIC ACCESS HIGHLIGHT THE IMPORTANCE OF PRESERVING THIS RARE PIECE OF NEW YORK CITY HISTORY.

♪♪

IT'S SO QUIET HERE.

IT'S SO PEACEFUL AND TRANQUIL.

PEOPLE GET OFF THE CABLE CAR OR COME OUT OF THE SUBWAY.

MANY PEOPLE THINK WE'RE A THOUSAND MILES AWAY FROM CIVILIZATION, AND THEY REALIZE THEY'RE STILL THREE MINUTES AWAY FROM MANHATTAN, AND THEY'RE IN A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT WORLD.

IT ALWAYS FELT SO PEACEFUL AND PRETTY AND SERENE TO ME.

AND TRY TO UNDERSTAND HOW IT MIGHT HAVE FELT THE EXACT OPPOSITE TO PEOPLE WHO WERE THERE.

THE ONLY TIME I GOT THAT SENSE WAS LOOKING OVER TO MANHATTAN AND IMAGINING THAT I COULD NEVER GO THERE.

BOATS WOULD COME FROM MANHATTAN HERE WITH ALL THE PEOPLE THEY WANTED TO GET RID OF.

AND SMALLPOX WAS ONE OF THOSE GROUPS OF PEOPLE THEY WANTED TO SEGREGATE AND QUARANTINE HERE ON THE ISLAND.

THE RUIN SHOWCASES THIS ASPECT OF NEW YORK WHERE THE CITY IS BUSY BUILDING NEW, SHINY STRUCTURES AT EVERY TURN, BUT YOU HAVE THIS VERY BEAUTIFUL STRUCTURE THAT'S ACTIVELY DECAYING, AND THE CITY ALMOST DOESN'T KNOW HOW TO RESPOND TO THAT.

ROOSEVELT ISLAND IS A TWO-MILE ISLAND.

IT IS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE EAST RIVER.

IT TECHNICALLY IS PART OF MANHATTAN.

THE RENWICK RUIN IS ONE OF SIX LANDMARKS ON THE ISLAND, WHICH IS AMAZING IN AND OF ITSELF, THAT AN ISLAND THAT'S ONLY TWO MILES LONG HAS SIX LANDMARKS.

BECAUSE I THINK IT'S REALLY IMPORTANT FOR US AS A CIVILIZATION TO PRESERVE THE BEAUTIFUL PIECES OF ART AND ARCHITECTURE FROM OUR HISTORY.

WE HAVE THE BLACKWELL FARMHOUSE.

WE HAVE OUR CHAPEL.

WE ALSO HAVE A LIGHTHOUSE AT THE NORTH END OF THE ISLAND.

WE HAVE OUR OCTAGON, WHICH WAS ORIGINALLY THE ENTRANCE AND ON THE SOUTH END OF THE ISLAND, WE HAVE THE SMALLPOX HOSPITAL.

SMALLPOX HOSPITAL IS A HISTORY OF MEDICINE.

IT'S A HISTORY OF NURSING.

IT'S A HISTORY OF CONSTRUCTION.

IT'S A HISTORY OF A FAMED ARCHITECT.

AND JUST TO SAY OH, WELL, IT'S AN OLD ROOM, LET'S TEAR IT DOWN, IT DOESN'T WORK.

THE IDEA THAT THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE WERE SENT TO THIS ISLAND, TREATED TERRIBLY.

MANY, IF NOT MOST DIED THERE.

AND ALMOST KNOW ONE KNOWS THAT THIS HAPPENED.

AND FOR ME, WRITING ABOUT THEM, IT'S LIKE RESTORES THEM.

IT DOESN'T MAKE THINGS RIGHT, BUT AT LEAST THEIR STORY IS TOLD, AND PEOPLE KNOW THIS HAPPENED TO YOU.

THIS WAS WRONG.

I THINK AS THIS CITY BUILDS AND BUILDS ANEW, WE BEGIN TO FORGET A LITTLE BIT OF OUR HISTORY.

WE THINK OF LANDMARK BUILDINGS AS SOMEHOW ETERNAL, BUT THEY COULD CRUMBLE AWAY, JUST LIKE THIS BUILDING COULD.

IT WAS A STORY OF HEALTH AND HOPEFUL WELLNESS IN THE CITY.

AND IT'S FASCINATED THE IMAGINATIONS OF NEW YORKERS FOR 70 YEARS.

AND AS THE WORK TO STABILIZE THE RUIN AND SHARE ITS STORY CONTINUES, THE CHALLENGES ASSOCIATED WITH HONORING THE PAST AND PRESERVING THE HISTORY OF OUR CITY REMAIN ONGOING.

AND AS THE FATE OF THE RUIN IS STILL BEING DETERMINED, WE SHOULD ALL STOP TO CONSIDER THE IMPORTANCE OF PRESERVATION EFFORTS AND THE IMPACT THAT ERASING HISTORIES CAN HAVE ON BOTH OUR CITY AND OUR LIVES.

SO I SUSPECT, AGAIN, MANY VIEWERS ARE WATCHING SAYING I HAD NO IDEA THAT THAT WAS THERE.

SO LET ME ASK YOU ABOUT THAT.

IT IS A RUIN.

ARE THERE ANY PLANS TO RESURRECT IT IN ANY SHAPE OR FORM?

WELL, THE CITY IS DOING A GREAT JOB WITH THE CONSORTIUM OF DIFFERENT ORGANIZATIONS TO PRESERVE THE STRUCTURE IN ITS CURRENT STATE.

SO THEY ARE DEFINITELY TRYING TO KEEP IT AS IS.

THERE ARE ORGANIZATIONS, FRIENDS OF THE RUIN THAT ARE ACTIVELY WORKING WITH THE ROOSEVELT ISLAND OPERATING CORPORATION, THE STATE AND THE CITY TO PRESERVE THE SHELL IN ITS CURRENT STATE AND OPEN IT UP TO PUBLIC ACCESS, MAYBE IN A WAY THAT'S JUST MORE PARK-LIKE THAN BUILDING-LIKE.

BUT THE REAL POINT HERE IS ROOSEVELT ISLAND IS AN INTERESTING ISLAND IN OUR CITY.

THE HISTORY THERE IS VERY DEEP.

AND THIS IS PRETTY MUCH THE ONLY RUIN LEFT FROM THAT LONG HISTORY.

SO I THINK PRESERVING ITS SHELL JUST TO BASICALLY GIVE PEOPLE AN OPPORTUNITY TO ASK THE QUESTION ABOUT WHAT THIS IS AND WHERE IT COMES FROM AND WHAT IT STOOD FOR ON THE ISLAND IS AS IMPORTANT AS ANYTHING.

LET ME TAKE A LOOK AT ANOTHER ONE HERE.

THIS IS ACTUALLY A MORE FAMILIAR LANDMARK TO NOT ONLY RESIDENTS, BUT CERTAINLY TO TOURISTS.

BUT IF YOU LOOK AT ITS HISTORY AND SOME OTHER ASPECTS OF IT, IT MAY WELL SURPRISE A LOT OF PEOPLE.

AND WE'RE TALKING ABOUT THE WASHINGTON SQUARE ARCH.

LET'S TAKE A LOOK.

♪♪

THE WASHINGTON SQUARE ARCH WAS BUILT IN 1892 TO COMMEMORATE THE CENTENNIAL OF GEORGE WASHINGTON'S INAUGURATION IN THE HEART OF GREENWICH VILLAGE.

JOINED BY ARCHITECT STANFORD WHITE AS A PERMANENT MONUMENT IN WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK, THE ARCH IS A MAJESTIC MARBLE STRUCTURE AND STANDS AS ONE OF THE CITY'S MOST ICONIC LANDMARKS.

INVESTMENTS IN PRESERVING ITS LEGACY AND CELEBRATING ITS CULTURAL IMPACT HIGHLIGHT THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS ICONIC NEW YORK CITY LANDMARK.

WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK CERTAINLY IS A CULTURAL CENTER.

AND FOLKS WILL RALLY EITHER AROUND THE FOUNTAIN OR AROUND THE ARCH ITSELF.

IT'S BEEN THE SITE OF PROTESTS.

IT'S BEEN THE SITE OF INCREDIBLE CULTURAL ACTIVITY IN A PLACE WHERE YOU CAN FEEL THE CITY'S PRESENCE VERY STRONGLY.

I THINK THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE ARCH LENDS ITSELF TO SOME OF THE PUBLIC ART INSTALLATIONS.

IT'S AN ART THAT REALLY APPEALS TO ARTISTS AS A PLACE OF INTERVENTION.

THE WHOLE IDEA OF WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK REPRESENTING ARTIST COMMUNITIES THAT SHAPED THE IDENTITY OF THE VILLAGE AND WASHINGTON SQUARE.

IT'S A GIFT IN A CITY LIKE NEW YORK TO HAVE A PARK LIKE THIS.

AS SOON AS YOU WALK THROUGH HERE ON A GIVEN BEAUTIFUL DAY, YOU ARE GOING TO HEAR MUSIC.

STREET PERFORMERS WILL COME OUT AND DO WONDERFUL PERFORMANCES.

THERE ARE YOUNG PEOPLE AND OLD PEOPLE IN THE PARK.

THERE ARE PLAYGROUNDS.

THERE ARE DOG RUNS.

THERE IS A SENSE OF THE GREATER CITY IN THE PARK.

I THINK ABOUT THE DIVERSITY OF PEOPLE THAT USE IT AND ALSO THE DIVERSITY OF THE PEOPLE THAT ONCE LIVED HERE BEFORE IT WAS A PARK.

WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK WAS BUILT BASICALLY ON TOP OF POTTER'S FIELD.

IT'S ESTIMATED APPROXIMATELY 20,000 SOULS WERE BURIED HERE.

BY 1825, THERE IS ALREADY BUILDINGS BEING BUILT ALONG THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE POTTER'S FIELD.

WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK OPENS IN 1827.

IT'S ACTUALLY OPENED AS A MILITARY PARADE GROUND, BUT PEOPLE ARE USING THE SQUARE AS A PLACE TO CONGREGATE, TO ENJOY, TO TAKE A WALK.

IN THE 1850s, THE PARK GETS ITS FOUNTAIN.

AND ACTUALLY, THE ARCH IS ONE OF THE LAST MONUMENTS THAT GETS ADDED TO THE PARK, WHICH ALWAYS SURPRISES PEOPLE.

ONE OF THE THINGS THAT PEOPLE DON'T KNOW ABOUT WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK ARCH IS THAT IT HAS AN INTERIOR THAT CAN BE CLIMBED.

THERE IS A SMALL DOOR ON THE WESTERN SIDE OF THE ARCH.

WHEN YOU GO IN, YOU ARE IMMEDIATELY CONFRONTED WITH A SPIRAL STAIRCASE.

THE STEPS ARE VERY NARROW.

AT SOME POINT THERE IS A LANDING ON WHICH ON THE EXTERIOR ARE THE COUNTRY CHERS THAT ARE AT THE TOP OF THE ART.

AND THE RECTANGULAR DOUBLE HEIGHT ROOM, AND THEN THERE IS A FINAL STAIRCASE UP, AND THEN YOU'RE ON THE ROOF.

IT'S AMAZING ANYWHERE IN THE NEW YORK THAT YOU CAN GET A 360 VIEW.

AND BEING ABOVE THE TREE CANOPY IS REALLY INCREDIBLE.

ONE OF THE EXCITING THINGS ABOUT DOING PUBLIC ART IS THAT THE GALLERIES ARE UNDEFINED.

SO WHEN THINKING ABOUT WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK, THERE WAS THE ARTISTIC AND CULTURAL HERITAGE OF THAT SITE.

MARCEL DU CHAMP USED TO HANG OUT, PLACE CHESS THERE.

ONCE SORT OF TOOK POSSESSION ILLEGALLY OF THE ARCH, CLIMBED TO THE TOP OF IT WITH SOME FRIENDS AND DECLARED IT AN INDEPENDENT REPUBLIC.

I LOVE THAT HISTORY AND THOSE RESONANCES, AND HE INTEGRATED HIS WORK INTO THE DAILY EXPERIENCE OF NEW YORKERS.

BUT IT'S INTERESTING BECAUSE THE POWER AND THE IMPACT THAT WEIWEI'S INSULATION HAD REINFORCED THE OPENNESS, THE DEMOCRATIC SPIRIT AND THE ABILITY FOR PEOPLE FROM ALL DIFFERENT KINDS OF WALKS OF LIFE TO COME TOGETHER.

IT'S CERTAINLY A SYMBOL OF OUR HERITAGE, OUR BEGINNINGS AS A COUNTRY.

AND THE IDEA WAS TO REALLY BRING BEAUTIFUL ARCHITECTURE AND ART INTO THE PUBLIC SPACE.

I JUST LOVE THAT NEW YORK CITY HAS LAYERS OF VERTICAL HISTORY THAT WHEN YOU START DIGGING, YOU ACTUALLY GET A RICHER AND RICHER STORY.

SO AS HISTORY, COMMUNITY, AND ART CONTINUE TO DEFINE THE LEGACY OF WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK, ACTIVITY AROUND THE ARCH CONTINUES TO INSPIRE RESIDENTS THROUGHOUT THE CITY.

AND AS THE FUTURE OF OUR MONUMENTS ARE BEING RECONSIDERED, WE SHOULD ALL PAUSE TO APPRECIATE THE CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE OF WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK AND ITS IMPACT ON EVERYONE IN NEW YORK CITY.

SO WHY -- WE'RE TALKING ABOUT THINGS THAT ARE NOT REMEMBERED, UNFORGOTTEN, NOT AS VISIBLE.

WASHINGTON SQUARE ARCH IS NONE OF THOSE THINGS IN SOME WAYS.

CERTAINLY VERY VISIBLE.

WHY THEN DECIDE TO INCLUDE IT IN THIS GROUP?

IT'S A LONGER STORY THAN WE HAVE TIME FOR ON THIS SEGMENT.

BUT THE TRUTH IS EVEN WITHIN THE MOST OBVIOUS LANDMARKS AND OBVIOUS STRUCTURES IN THE CITY, DID YOU KNOW YOU COULD GO INSIDE?

DID YOU KNOW THERE WAS THIS HISTORY WITH MARCEL DU CHAMPS AND IT IS THE SECOND ITERATION OF AN ARCH, THE LAST TO BE BUILT IN WASHINGTON SQUARE?

EVEN WHEN YOU PARADE AROUND THE CITY AND COME ACROSS ALL THESE THINGS THAT YOU THOUGHT YOU NOW NO. 2 ABOUT, THIS EPISODE SHINES THE LIGHT THERE IS ALWAYS MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE AND SEE THINGS SPECTACULAR AND STUNNING IN THEIR OWN RIGHT.

FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS, I'VE TAUGHT AT NYU.

AND BEFORE I WOULD TEACH MY CLASS, I WOULD ALMOST INVARIABLY GO SIT IN WASHINGTON PARK.

AND I WOULD LOOK AT THE ARCH AND SAY THAT'S LOVELY.

BUT AFTER WATCHING YOUR PIECE, ONCE AGAIN, I'D SAY DID NOT KNOW THAT.

AND ELABORATE A LITTLE BIT ON ITS LOCATION AND WHAT WAS ORIGINALLY THERE.

SO IT'S ALIGNED WITH FIFTH AVENUE.

AND, YOU KNOW, THE PARK HAS SUCH A RICH HISTORY FROM BEING A POTTER'S FIELD, WHICH I THINK IS SELDOM APPRECIATED AND UNDERSTOOD, AS PART OF A SERIES OF POTTERS FIELD THAT MOVED UP FROM CITY HALL, WASHINGTON SQUARE, MADISON SQUARE, AND NOW IT'S ACTUALLY AT HART ISLAND.

BUT THAT ARCH WAS REALLY KIND OF A GATEWAY MOVING UP NORTH.

IT HAD A ROADWAY THAT RAN THROUGH IT FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS UNTIL THE MID CENTURY.

CARS WERE PARKED IN THE PARK.

THERE IS SO MUCH RICHNESS THAT MAYBE THE ARCH ITSELF IS NOT AT THE CENTER OF, BUT THE PARK CERTAINLY IS.

AND THEN LEARNING A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT THE ARCH'S ARCHITECTURAL INTERIOR AND WHAT HAPPENED THERE AND WHAT IT SYMBOLIZES FOR CITY WAS AS MUCH ON BRAND WITH THE UNFORGOTTEN PROJECT AS ANYTHING ELSE.

LET'S TAKE A LOOK AT ANOTHER ONE HERE.

ONCE AGAIN, PEOPLE I SUSPECT WILL KNOW THE NAME.

AND THEY MAY WELL KNOW HOW IT'S USED TODAY, BUT I SUSPECT NOT HAVE AS MUCH KNOWLEDGE ABOUT ITS PAST.

AND THAT IS ELLIS ISLAND.

LET'S TAKE A LOOK.

♪♪

ELLIS ISLAND ORIGINALLY OPENED BACK IN 1892 AS THE FIRST POINT OF ENTRY FOR MILLIONS OF NEW AMERICANS IN THE HEART OF NEW YORK HARBOR.

CREATED AS OUR NATION'S FIRST INSPECTION STATION FOR IMMIGRATION, ELLIS WAS ALSO A MEDICAL FACILITY, A DETENTION CENTER, AND WAS COMPLETELY ABANDONED BEFORE EMERGING AS A GREAT MEMORIAL TO DIVERSITY AND IMMIGRATION.

BUT AS THE FUTURE OF OUR IMMIGRATION STORY IS STILL BEING WRITTEN, EFFORTS TO EXPAND PUBLIC ACCESS AND INCREASE HISTORIC INTEREST CONTINUE TO DEFINE THE LEGACY OF THIS NEW YORK CITY LANDMARK.

WELL, ELLIS ISLAND IS A GREAT MEMORIAL TO THE POPULATING OF AMERICA.

IT'S A TRIBUTE TO OUR WELCOME.

IT'S ALSO ON OCCASION A STORY OF NOT BEING SO WELCOME.

I THINK IT CAN BE A REALLY LIFE-CHANGING EXPERIENCE TO KNOW THAT SOMETHING EXISTED BEFORE YOU, THAT YOU ARE YOURSELF ONE STEP FROM THIS JOURNEY.

ON ONE SIDE OF THE ISLAND, YOU HAVE THE GREAT HALL AND THE MUSEUM NOW AND THE WATER TOWER.

AND THE OTHER SIDE, YOU HAVE THAT GIANT HOSPITAL, WHICH IS LITERALLY ENDLESS WITH THE DIFFERENT YARD.

IT'S VERY STRANGE ENERGY.

WE'RE CONTINUALLY LEARNING MORE, NOT ONLY THE OLD STORIES BUT NEW STORIES AND WHAT ELLIS ISLAND MEANS AND WHAT IT SIGNIFIES.

ELLIS ISLAND IS IN NEW YORK HARBOR, ONE OF THE GREAT HARBORS OF THE WORLD.

IT'S AN INTERNATIONALLY SIGNIFICANT LOCATION BECAUSE IT IS THE PLACE WHERE 12 MILLION IMMIGRANTS CAME THROUGH ON THEIR WAY TO THE UNITED STATES.

NATIONAL PARKS SERVICE STARTED MANAGING ELLIS ISLAND IN 1965 WHEN THE PLACE WAS IN FAIRLY ROUGH SHAPE.

IT HAD BEEN ABANDONED FOR OVER A DECADE.

ROOFS HAD COLLAPSED, WINDOWS WERE BROKEN.

OVERALL, THE SITE WAS IN FAIRLY POOR CONDITION.

THERE WAS A LOT OF DISCUSSION OVER THE YEARS ABOUT WHAT TO DO WITH ELLIS ISLAND AND HOW TO PROTECT THESE PLACES, PRESERVE THE BUILDINGS AND STORIES THAT HAVEN'T ALWAYS BEEN TOLD AND TALK ABOUT THEIR RELEVANCE.

NOT JUST TO HISTORY, BUT NOW THE FUTURE AS WELL.

THE STATUE OF LIBERTY ELLIS ISLAND FOUNDATION WAS CREATED BACK IN 1982 TO RESTORE THE STATUE OF LIBERTY AND ELLIS ISLAND.

NOBODY KNEW HOW MUCH IT WOULD COST.

ACTUALLY, NOBODY KNEW ANYTHING, EXCEPT THAT WE KNEW THAT THE MOST IMPORTANT PLACE IN THE BUILDING WAS THE GREAT HALL.

AND IT WAS ABANDONED IN 1954.

IF IT HAD BEEN CAREFULLY ABANDONED, THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN LESS DECAY.

THE WINDOWS WERE OPEN FOR 20 OR 30 YEARS, AND THINGS GOT WET.

SO EVERYBODY AGREED OKAY, LET'S DRY THE THING OUT.

AND WE DID.

BUT NOT THE BAGGAGE AND DORMITORY BUILDING.

IT WAS JUST TOO BIG AND TOO FAR GONE FOR US TO EVEN THINK ABOUT AT THAT POINT.

BUT OBVIOUSLY, THERE IS LOTS OF SPACE HERE.

AND WHATEVER CAN BE DONE TO ENHANCE TELLING THE ELLIS ISLAND STORY OF THE PAST AND THE AMERICAN STORY OF THE PRESENT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO.

YOU KNOW, IF YOU WALK IN ELLIS ISLAND, AND ESPECIALLY IN THAT SECTION OF ELLIS ISLAND, YOU'LL HAVE THIS ENERGY AROUND YOU.

WHEN YOU WOULD CROSS TO GO ON THE OTHER SIDE, WHAT WAS REALLY INTERESTING IS YOU FIND SOME ROOMS THAT HAVE NEVER BEEN OPENED.

THE DOOR HAVE BEEN STUCK THERE FOREVER.

AND WHEN YOU WALK IN A ROOM AND SUDDENLY THERE IS SOMEONE LOOKING AT YOU, IT'S A STRANGE FEELING THAT THAT PERSON'S REALLY THERE.

AND IT'S CRAZY BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU MAKE PIECE OF ART.

YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN THEY'LL MAKE SENSE.

AND IT CONNECTS US TO A SITUATION WE'RE LIVING TODAY AND WE DON'T KNOW HOW TO DEAL WITH.

YOU KNOW THE KIND OF STORIES AND THE TRAVELS THOSE PEOPLE MADE AND EVERYTHING BEHIND THEM, IT'S FASCINATING.

THERE ARE A LOT OF THINGS ABOUT THE ELLIS ISLAND STORY THAT PEOPLE MIGHT NOT REALIZE.

AND PERHAPS IT DOESN'T IMPACT YOU IN THE DIRECT WAY TO SEE THE STEPS THAT PEOPLE TOOK TO GET WHERE THEY NEEDED TO GO.

BUT THOSE WERE ALWAYS FACTORS IN THE ELLIS ISLAND STORY, AND I THINK FACTORS IN THE AMERICAN STORY.

AND IT'S COMFORTING IN A WAY TO KNOW THAT THE TIMES THAT WE LIVE IN MIGHT SEEM MONUMENTAL.

THEY MIGHT SEEM VERY STRANGE TO US.

BUT THESE ARE JUST A CONTINUATION OF THAT CONVERSATION THAT'S BEEN HAPPENING EVER SINCE THERE WAS AN AMERICA TO HAVE A STORY ABOUT.

I KNOW PEOPLE HAVE TRIED TO WHITEWASH THE ELLIS ISLAND STORY, BUT IT STOOD FOR THE REAL STORY OF IMMIGRATION, WHICH WAS ON AND OFF, AND CONTINUES TO BE ON AND OFF TODAY.

THIS PLACE WHERE 40% OF THE POPULATION OF THE COUNTRY CAN TRACE ITS ROOTS HAD NOT INTENDED TO BE THIS WAY.

SO WE HAD TO TAKE ELLIS ISLAND AND MAKE IT INTO THE STORY OF WHAT AMERICA WAS ALL ABOUT.

IT'S INTERESTING TO LOOK AT ELLIS ISLAND TO LEARN FROM WHAT ACTUALLY WAS GREAT ABOUT THIS SYSTEM OF WELCOMING PEOPLE.

STORIES THAT ARE PRETTY RECENT HISTORY.

AND THIS LITTLE ISLAND IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WATER, IT'S REALLY A PLACE WHERE YOU HAVE TO GO TO TRY TO UNDERSTAND HOW TO DEAL WITH THAT FUTURE, YOU KNOW.

♪♪

SO AS WE CONTINUE TO REFLECT ON THE PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE OF ELLIS ISLAND, EFFORTS TO PRESERVE HISTORIC STRUCTURES AND SHARE THE REAL STORY OF IMMIGRATION REMAIN ONGOING.

AND AS OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH IMMIGRATION CONTINUES TO EVOLVE, WE SHOULD TAKE A MOMENT TO CELEBRATE THE EXTRAORDINARY SIGNIFICANCE OF ELLIS ISLAND AND ITS IMPACT ON OUR HISTORY, OUR MEMORY, AND OUR LIVES.

SO, AGAIN, PEOPLE NOEL LISS ISLAND, BUT I SUSPECT THEY DIDN'T KNOW THAT IT HAD BASICALLY FALLEN INTO SUCH DISREPAIR.

HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?

AND THEN HOW DID ITS RESURRECTION TAKE PLACE?

SO I HAVE TO SAY THAT THE ELLIS ISLAND STORY IS ONE OF THE MOST FASCINATING I THINK, NOT JUST IN THE CITY, BUT IN THE COUNTRY.

EVERYBODY HAS HEARD OF ELLIS ISLAND.

THEY KNOW THE HISTORY.

THEY IDENTIFY IT WITH KIND OF THE IMMIGRATION LEGACY OF THIS CITY AND OF THIS COUNTRY.

BUT TO APPRECIATE AGAIN WHAT THAT WINDOW WAS, EARLY CENTURY, HOW IT TRANSFORMED IN USE AROUND THE MID CENTURY, AND HOW OUR COUNTRY REALLY UNDERWENT A HUGE SHIFT AFTER THE WAR IN THE 50s, AND BASICALLY, THERE JUST WASN'T A PURPOSE FOR IT ANYMORE.

LIKE A LOT OF STRUCTURES AROUND THE CITY, IT WAS JUST LEFT TO SORT OF FADE AWAY.

ENGINE THAT'S A REMARKABLE PART OF THE STORY.

NOT JUST IN THE FACT THAT THE BUILDINGS WENT THROUGH THAT AND HAVE SURVIVED AN COME OUT THE OTHER WAY, BUT THAT'S PART OF OUR STORY ALSO IS THAT THERE WAS THIS PERIOD OF TIME WHERE THINGS WERE VIEWED IN A DIFFERENT LIGHT.

IN THE '80s, THERE WAS DEFINITELY A PUSH TO BRING IT BACK THE LIFE, AND THE STATUE OF LIBERTY/ELLIS ISLAND FOUNDATION DID MIRACULOUS THINGS TO BRING IT BACK ONLINE.

BUT I THINK ONE OF THE AMAZING TRUTHS ABOUT THE ISLAND STILL IS MOST OF THE STRUCTURES AND MOST OF THE SQUARE FOOTAGE ON THE ISLAND IS STILL INACCESS TO BELIEVE THE PUBLIC.

THE GREAT PAL AND THE MUSEUM, FANTASTIC DEPICTION OF THE AMERICAN STORY AND THE IMMIGRATION STORY, BUT ELLIS ISLAND IS STILL A WORK IN PROGRESS, AND THERE IS A LOT MORE TO THAT STORY TO BE WRITTEN, AND IN OUR FUTURE.

THE IMMIGRATION STORY IN THIS COUNTRY WILL NEVER BE OVER.

LOOKING AT ELLIS TO BE THAT GROWING, CHANGING ICON THAT REPRESENTS THAT STORY IS HUMBLING AND BEAUTIFUL.

AND I THINK WE HOPE THAT THIS VERSION OF THAT STORY HELPS OPEN PEOPLE'S EYES A LITTLE MORE TO UNDERSTAND THAT ELLIS IS NOT AND NOR WILL IT EVER BE A COMPLETED PROJECT.

IT WILL ALWAYS BE AN ONGOING PIECE OF OUR AMERICAN HISTORY.

WE'VE GOT ABOUT A MINUTE LEFT HERE.

AND THAT SORT OF IS IN LINE WITH WHAT YOU WERE SAYING.

WHAT DO YOU WANT VIEWERS TO TAKE AWAY FROM YOUR UNFORGOTTEN FILMS?

I THINK AT ITS CORE, IF ANY PERSON WERE TO WATCH ANY ONE OF THESE UNFORGOTTEN FILMS, UNDERSTAND THERE IS MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE OUT THERE IN THE WORLD.

NEW YORK CITY IS SUCH A SPECIAL PLACE FOR SO MANY REASONS, AND THERE IS SO MUCH COMPETITION FOR YOUR ATTENTION, AND THERE ARE SO MANY OBVIOUS PORTS OF ENTRY.

BUT TO UNDERSTAND THAT EVERYTHING THAT WE WALK ON, EVERYTHING THAT WE LOOK AT, EVERYTHING THAT WE SAY, SPEAK, THINK, OR FEEL, IT'S ALL PART OF THIS CYCLE OF HISTORY.

AND FOR US TO TAKE A MOMENT AND APPRECIATE NOT JUST WHERE WE CAME FROM, BUT ALSO THOSE THINGS INFORM WHERE WE'RE GOING.

I THINK IT'S JUST A WONDERFUL POINT OF PERSPECTIVE.

AND IF NOTHING ELSE, IT'S A WONDERFUL WAY TO APPRECIATE WHERE YOU COME FROM AND WHERE YOU LIVE.

WELL, THEY ARE INDEED, TO ECHO YOU, WONDERFUL STORIES, IMPORTANT STORIES.

AND WE APPRECIATE ALL THE WORK YOU'RE DOING TO PRESERVE THOSE STORIES AND HELP US LEARN ABOUT THEM.

AARON, PLEASURE TALKING WITH YOU AGAIN.

WE LOOK FORWARD TO OUR NEXT CONVERSATION.

YOU BE WELL, NOW.

THANK YOU SO MUCH, I APPRECIATE IT.

AND FOR MORE INFORMATION ON HOW YOU CAN VISIT THE RENWICK RUIN, WASHINGTON SQUARE ARCH, OR ELLIS ISLAND, MAKE SURE YOU VISIT US ON THE WEB AT WWW.METROFOCUS.ORG.

AND TO SEE UNFORGOTTEN FILMS PIECES ON THESE LANDMARKS AND OTHERS, SUCH AS HART ISLAND IN THE BRONX AND FORT TOTTEN WATER BATTERY IN QUEENS, VISIT THEIR WEBSITE AT WWW.UNFORGOTTENFILMS.COM.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND.

BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG.

THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

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