Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles E. Schumer today announced that legislation that would authorize the National Park Service (NPS) to conduct a study on whether Fort Ontario and the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum in Oswego should become a unit of the National Park system has passed the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. This legislation is the first step in an effort that would provide significant resources to Central New York, including increased federal funding for conservation and economic development programs, and would increase tourism to the area.
“I am pleased my bill today beginning the process of making Fort Ontario and the Safe Haven Museum a part of the National Park Service passed out of committee today and is one step closer to becoming law,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “This site is one of Central New York’s gems, and it has had outsized importance throughout New York State’s long and rich history, including most recently as a shelter for Jewish refugees of the Holocaust. This legislation would give Americans from all around the country the opportunity to learn about this important place. I am proud to fight for this legislation in the Senate, and I will urge my colleagues to move quickly to pass it.”
“It’s only fitting to preserve the rich history of the Fort Ontario and Safe Haven Holocaust Refuge Shelter Museum by officially designating this location as part of the National Park System. I will continue to work side by side with Senator Gillibrand until her legislation passes Congress,” said U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer. “This legislation will finally allow the National Park Service to take the first step towards giving this site the recognition it deserves and protecting it for future generations. Achieving this designation will allow people to learn about the history of this site and attract new visitors to the area.”
Senator Gillibrand introduced the Fort Ontario Study legislation in 2016. The Fort Ontario Military Complex dates back to the early 1840s and is built on the ruins of three earlier fortifications from the French & Indian War, Revolutionary War, and War of 1812. Fort Ontario is now a part of the NYS Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.
The Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum commemorates the 982 European refugees who called Fort Ontario home in 1944 after President Franklin D. Roosevelt invited them as his “special guests,” creating an emergency shelter to maneuver around the difficult immigration policies of the time.