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Where Is the Statue of Liberty?

Photo of Statue of Liberty
The iconic Statue of Liberty.

To pass the US citizenship test, you will have to answer 10 of a possible 100 questions. The following question is from the USCIS test.

Where is the Statue of Liberty?

Acceptable Answers:

  • New York Harbor
  • Liberty Island
  • New Jersey
  • near New York City
  • on the Hudson River

The following is a full explanation of the USCIS question:

All five answers are technically correct, so those providing one of them can’t be penalized. The best answers are New York Harbor and Liberty Island because they are indisputable. Saying it is near New York City or on the Hudson River is true but vaguer. New Jersey isn’t correct officially, but there is enough dispute that it is allowed.

This all leads to more significant questions of why there are so many possible answers to this question. How can this giant statue be in two states, and does one have a better claim than the other? Because of this, it is a good idea to know more about its true location and Liberty Island.

Location of the Statue of Liberty

This shouldn’t be that difficult to relay as we know that she stands proud on an island in the waters near New York City. But, that is where the confusion lies. There is disputed ownership of the statue between the states of New York and New Jersey because of the location of the island geographically and the borders of those states. While New York is responsible for the island and everything to do with the statue, there is a strong argument that its physical location places it in New Jersey.

Is the Statue of Liberty in New York or New Jersey?

The main reason for the controversy over the location of the Statue of Liberty comes from its placement on an island away from both Jersey City and Manhattan. If you look at aerial photos of the statue, you can see both cities in the background, and Jersey City often appears to be closer.

The island is 1.6 miles from the Battery in Lower Manhattan but just 2,000 ft from Liberty State Park in Jersey City. You get better views of the statue from the waters and land of New Jersey. But, the island is technically in the possession of New York.

Part of the confusion also comes from the fact that the statue is listed as part of a group under the New Jersey Register of Historic Places and as a New York City landmark. The former came about in 1971, not long after the statue was grouped with Ellis Island and Liberty Island on the National Register of Historic Places. New York’s entry came just five years later, in 1976.

Furthermore, a lawsuit was brought before New York State by New Jersey residents. They challenged the city’s jurisdiction over the island in 1986, but the case was quickly dismissed. Soon after, a New Jersey representative and Jersey City mayor tried again and claimed the island was clearly over their state line.

The Hudson and New York Harbor

The best way to describe the location of the Statue of Liberty may be to focus on the water. The island sits in a large harbor area between the Hudson River and Upper New York Bay. The old colonial land grant for New Jersey places the Hudson River as its border and the area “westward of Long Island…and the east part by the main sea.” This could place the statue on New York land within New Jersey waters.

Is the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island?

This is a common misconception that you see online. There is the knowledge that immigrants traveling into New York Harbor would see the grand statue on their arrival and see it as a warm welcome. The statue’s base reads, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

There is also the understanding that immigrants were processed on Ellis Island to start their new lives in the city. So, it is easy to see why people assume that the statue is on Ellis Island. Instead, she stands on the aptly named Liberty Island.

What Is Liberty Island?

Liberty Island is the current name for the small island that houses the Statue of Liberty. It only gained the name in 1956 when it was renamed as such by an Act of Congress. Before this, it was known as Bedloe’s Island. By this point, it had long been a national monument, having been designated as such by Franklin Roosevelt in 1937.

The statue itself had been at home on the island for far longer than that, having been dedicated to the United States in 1886. The statue was actually a gift from the French and the work of Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. It was originally titled Liberty Enlightening The World before gaining the more commonly known name of Statue of Liberty.

Not long after gaining the name Liberty Island, the site entered the National Register of Historic Places. It did so as more of a complete package of historical sites with the national monument, Liberty Island more generally, and Ellis Island grouped. Today, it remains a popular tourist attraction, and a new museum on the site was completed in 2016 that houses the original torch.

A Proud Symbol of New York

Whether or not New Jersey residents like to admit it, the Statue of Liberty belongs to New York and is seen as a part of its landscape. People travel to New York City in the hopes of seeing the statue and will take a ferry from Manhattan to Liberty Island to get a closer view. It doesn’t really matter to those tourists that the statue is closer to New Jersey or where the boundaries are in the bay. So, she will always be a New York Giant regardless of what New Jersey claims.

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