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Losing their Liberty: City finally cracking down illegal ticket hawkers in the Battery


Breaking the law. (Mark Woodward/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

As promised, city officials are taking action against the illegal ticket hawkers who prey on tourists heading for the Statue of Liberty. Any visitor to the Battery can’t miss the official-looking phalanx outside the Bowling Green and South Ferry subway stations, with deception pitches like “check in for the Statue of Liberty.”

When the unsuspecting say that they don’t have tickets, the hawkers offer “express tickets,” which is illegal since they can’t sell or offer for sale in the park (and a lie since the promised 1-hour express trip often takes far longer). It’s also a scam since their boats don’t land at either Liberty or Ellis Islands. And it’s a rip-off, since their price is $35, twice the $18.50 of the National Park Service-approved Statue Cruises trip, which does stop on both islands.

In twin steps, the city is fighting back. Most promisingly, by expelling from Pier 36 on the East River one of the “express” boats with the worst offending hawkers, giving the vessel 30 days notice to heave ho. Once their boats stop sailing, the hawkers stop selling. But the hawkers are still peddling tickets for another boat using Pier 36, as well boats at Pier 16 and the Vesey St. dock.

Also, the Department of Consumer Affairs is proposing a new city rule that hawkers’ tickets must have the disclaimer: “This trip or tour does not land at Ellis Island.” Right motive, wrong move. Far better for Consumer Affairs to issue citations for illegal selling in the park, revoke the hawkers’ license badges and use the evidence to ground the boats.