It was essential to see the Statue of Liberty but security precautions got in the way. Before boarding the ferry, we had to go through metal detectors and bag searches similar to those at the airport. The ferry took us to the island where the statue stands but you can no longer go inside the statue or the museum at its base. I thought it was a bit rude that they didn't make this clear before we bought our tickets. I also thought it senseless since we had already been searched and if I wanted to blow up the statue, I'd come along at 2am in my own boat rather than take the public ferry. We walked around it twice in the late-October cold and headed back to the wharf for the warmth of the next ferry.
The disappointment at the statue was made up by the visit to the former immigration processing facility at nearby Ellis Island. Between 1892 and 1954, 12 million people, mainly from Europe, began their new lives in America right here. For those fleeing oppressive governments, it must have been a tremendous thrill to see the Statue of Liberty as a reminder of their new freedom. New immigrants were interviewed to verify their identity and checked for various diseases. Entry was not automatic. Today you must get a visa before leaving your destination and the airlines won't allow you to board the plane if you do not have the necessary paperwork. It seems in those days, a family might arrive from some poverty-stricken area in Europe, only to have grandfather sent back home because he failed the health test. The shipping companies did some preliminary checking at the port in Europe but in an era before passports and visas they could only reject the most obvious.
Not surprisingly, new immigrants tended to settle in areas of New York where there were already established communities from their home countries. The pattern tended to be that the most recent and poorest arrivals would go to lower (south) Manhattan and then move further uptown and into the wider city as they became more established and integrated. In most cases, the community eventually became so dispersed as to be unrecognizable. There is no longer a German area of Manhattan and Little Italy is now just a few streets catering to tourists. On the other hand, Chinatown is enormous and growing. While some probably feel threatened that the Chinese are consuming adjacent neighborhoods, I saw it more as an inability to integrate and therefore indication of failure.
We did a walking tour run by the Tenement Museum on the "Lower East Side". Tenements were buildings of cheap rental accommodation for new migrants. Large extended families crammed into one or two rooms, often with no natural light. To improve conditions, an 1867 law stipulated that a toilet must be provided for every 20 people. As you can imagine, it was almost impossible to stay clean and disease was common.
The Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is world-famous for its unusual building with a cork-screw interior. However, the art in the museum was modern and with one exception, to my eyes, completely worthless. That exception was a huge white piece with a single black line running across the middle of it. At first it appeared to be abstract art but on closer inspection it was a photograph taken near to the ground of a snow-covered beach in Iceland, a narrow strip of dark ocean then overcast sky above. Brilliant.