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June 13, 1986 - Image 27

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-06-13

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Iacocca: Favors
"ethnic Williamsburg"
over "tax shelters."

Photo by Jon Abbott for Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc,

Feuding Interior Secretary Don Hodel and Chrysler chief Lee
Iacocca agree that the Great Hall should be restored. The Hall is
currently shrouded in scaffolding.

The Times opted for yet a third
plan that has been floating around the
Interior Department; the ominous-
sounding "Fence" plan. This would
literally fence off the southern end
from the public. Buildings would
deteriorate until funds for their •
restoration or demolition — or
whatever — were available.
Keith Eastin, deputy undersecretary
of the Interior Department, said he is
"uncomfortable" with this option.
"These buildings are decaying by
the year," he said. "Nothing is being
done to help them withstand the
elements. I don't know how long
they can last."
The Interior Department is still
accepting proposals for Ellis Island,
said Eastin. "People have some
ideas," he said, "but these usually
consist of one or two sentences. No
details. I really don't expect any more
proposals to be submitted."
Of those plans that may still be
submitted, Eastin said, "I won't tell
anybody what to do, as long as it's in
good taste.-
Another concern of Eastin's is
money. Funding for the S70 million
conference center would come from
its developers, New York's non-profit
Center for Housing Partnerships. The
S150 million for the "ethnic
Williamsburg" would come from the
Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island
Foundation — if any money exists
after spending more than S250
million to rehabilitate the Statue and
the northern acreage on Ellis Island.
So for fiscal, aesthetic and historic
reasons, Interior officials are leaning
toward the conference center. But at
least one Member of 'Congress fears it
could be a public relations can of
worms. "It could be a terrible
embarrassment for us,- said Bruce
Vento, (D-Minn.), chairman of the
Interior National Parks and Recreation
"It would be like having activities
in and around the Lincoln Memorial
or another of our great memorials
that we would not have much to say
about," said Vento. "A group from
South Africa might rent it. Or a
Democratic or Republican convention
could be held in the shadow of the
Statue of Liberty."
No such chance, said Bill Hubbard,
head of the group that has proposed
the conference center. The university
or consortium of universities that
would run the center, said Hubbard,
would assure that there were no
"Oddly enough," added Hubbard,
"Lee Iacocca, whom I admire greatly,
has gone around the country calling
for more open debate on everything
from industrial policy to balance of
payments. That's the exact sort of
discussion we'd like to have at the
conference center."

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