Fort Ontario, Safe Haven Legislation Passes House

Safe Haven - June 2016. A effort is under way to make Fort Ontario and Safe Haven a national park.

Safe Haven - June 2016. A effort is under way to make Fort Ontario and Safe Haven a national park.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Jan. 30, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bipartisan Fort Ontario Study Act, legislation introduced by U.S. Rep John Katko (NY-24) which would put Fort Ontario and Safe Haven National Refugee Shelter in Oswego on the path towards becoming a National Park.

Katko was joined by Reps. Claudia Tenney (NY-22) and Louise Slaughter (NY-25) in introducing this legislation.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has introduced the measure in the Senate.

The Fort Ontario Study Act commissions a special resource study of Fort Ontario and Safe Haven in Oswego County to evaluate the site’s national significance and determine the suitability of its designation as a part of the National Park system.

This study is a prerequisite for receiving National Park designation.

The legislation passed the House during Katko’s first term, and was on the brink of passage in the U.S. Senate.

It was the first bill that he reintroduced during the 115th Congress.

“This site stands as a testament to the important role Central New York has played in our nation’s history,” Katko said. “I’m proud to be a champion for this effort, and I’m especially grateful for the tireless work of countless Oswego County residents, advocates, and leaders who have worked to raise the profile of historic Fort Ontario and Safe Haven.  With today’s passage of this bill in the House, I am hopeful that it will move quickly though the Senate and become law so that Fort Ontario and Safe Haven receive the national recognition deserved.”

“I would like to thank Congressman Katko for his continued dedication to both Fort Ontario and Oswego County. I am honored to join him as an original co-sponsor of the Fort Ontario Study Act, one of the first bills I co-sponsored as a member of Congress,” Tenney said. “This important piece of legislation will begin the process of advancing this local landmark to National Park status and further develop the unique and rich history of Fort Ontario. It is vital that we work closely alongside our community to protect and preserve Fort Ontario, which we are honored to have in our backyard.”

“We are grateful to Congressman Katko for his unwavering support of the efforts to advance the designation of Safe Haven and Fort Ontario to National Park Status and we look forward to working with the Congressman and his colleagues in the Senate to bring this legislation to fruition,” said Kevin Hill, president for Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter. “As the only shelter in the United States for European refugees of the Holocaust, it is imperative that we do everything in our power to keep alive the story of the Fort Ontario refugees and to preserve this important piece of history for future generations.”

David Turner, director of Oswego County Community Development, Tourism & Planning, said, “Oswego County is blessed with a rich history of people and places that have significantly contributed to the development of our country. Fort Ontario and the Safe Haven story are two of the most unique among a long list that are related to many of our nations internal and external struggles to form and maintain a government of and for the people. We already receive visitors from around the world as a result of our many natural, historic and cultural assets, so recognition of these two by the federal government is a fitting tribute. We look forward to working closer with our partners at the National Park Service as this project moves forward.”

“The foundation of the ideals that the United States was created from are centered in the history of Fort Ontario and the Safe Haven Museum. The sacrifices and the passion for the truths we hold true have been part of the experiences and events that have taken place here at this location. We owe it to generations to come to preserve what happened here for all Americans and the world to know the essence of the American experience. We encourage the passage of this legislation to raise the standing of Fort Ontario and the Safe Haven Museum to that of a US National Park,” said Jeffrey Grimshaw, chair of the Fort Ontario National Landmark Committee.

“On behalf of the Oswego Fort Ontario refugees and their families, I want to extend our deepest thanks to Congressman Katko and the House of Representatives for their recognition of these brave people who suffered horribly under the Nazi regime during the Holocaust before they arrived to the safety of our shores and a life in America,” said Judy Coe Rapaport, past president and board member for Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter.

“Approving this bill will not only honor Oswego and the State of New York but will affirm the principles of humanity which the United States and those who came before us have always stood for; which we must continue. A reason why we all came to this country, a reason why we live in and love this Country,” said Chris Mensah, Secretary to the Governing Council at UNHABITAT.

Oswego County Clerk Mike Backus said, “Fort Ontario and Save Haven are so deserving of recognition and I am thrilled to see the hard work of Rep. Katko and so many others beginning to pay off.”

“Congressman Katko has consistently been a huge supporter of Fort Ontario,” said Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow. “To see all of his hard work and dedication come to fruition today is extremely exciting and a great day for all of Oswego. All those who work and volunteer at Fort Ontario and Safe Haven should be exceptionally proud of the work we’ve all accomplishment and we are thankful to have a partner in Congressman Katko to help us with this endeavor.”

Congressman Katko represents the 24th Congressional District, which includes all of Onondaga, Cayuga, and Wayne counties and the western portion of Oswego County.

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