Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced that their legislation to begin the process of creating a national park site at Fort Ontario was signed into law last night. The Fort Ontario Study Act will authorize the National Park Service (NPS) to conduct a study to assess the feasibility of incorporating Fort Ontario and the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum in Oswego County as a unit of the National Park Service. Gillibrand introduced this legislation in the Senate and Schumer is an original cosponsor.
“I am very excited that my legislation that begins the process for Fort Ontario and the Safe Haven National Refugee Shelter Museum to become a National Park site has finally been signed into law. Fort Ontario has played an outsized role in New York State and our nation’s history, and I have been proud to work to make sure that these Central New York treasures can gain the recognition they deserve,” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “A National Park designation would be a fitting honor for these extraordinary sites and an incredible tribute to New York’s proud history as a home to refugees.”
“Fort Ontario and the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum remind us of our nation’s long history of welcoming those in need. With the Fort Ontario Study Act officially signed into law, we have taken a critical step forward in the quest to designate this location as part of the National Park System, which will attract attention and visitors to this worthy site,” said U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer. “While this is a significant victory, there is much more work to be done. I will continue to work hard in the Senate to ensure that official recognition becomes a reality.”
This study is the first step to designate Fort Ontario and the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum as a National Park Service site. This designation would open up new federal funding and resources to Central New York, including federal funding for conservation of the site and would help increase tourism to the area.
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 New York State Office of 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