Battery Park has become a battleground, according to those who operate ferry tours there, with licensed and unlicensed vendors competing for business, looking to tap into a lucrative market.
The mayor’s office reports that Statue City Cruises and NY Water Taxi are the only licensed vendors permitted to sell boat ride tickets in Battery Park. However, that hasn’t stopped other hawkers from popping up at the Manhattan greenspace in an effort to make a profit.
Mike Burke, COO of Statue City Cruises, told amNewYork Metro that illicit sellers are flogging tickets to cruises at exuberant prices and are misleading customers as to what rides they are paying for.
According to Burke, these vendors not only overcharge tourists, but they also lie about where exactly they are being taken, telling consumers, for instance, the boats will take them to Ellis Island when in fact they do not disembark on the iconic island.
“They interrupt visitors that would have been going to Statue Cruises looking to buy a ticket by essentially, let’s just call it lying, misrepresenting what their harbor tour is. They made it sound like they are going to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, which they can’t do,” Burke charged.
Burke levied accusations that these other vendors not only sell their own boat rides, but he also says he has received complaints from customers that the sellers market fake or previously used tickets from Statue Cruises under the guise that they are affiliated with his company. He likewise reports that the vendors often attempt to intimidate his staff and even tourists, occasionally erupting into violence.
“There are about 30 to 40 [vendors] all along Battery Park and State Street and you will see a number of uniforms, colors, outfits, and they are pretending to be what we are,” Burke said. “But there is virtually no NYPD enforcement.”
While Burke went as far as to call the vendors “thugs” and “ex-felons,” those on the other side say things are not so black and white.
Brock Brock, the president of Big City Tourism — one of the vendors in the area — pushed back against the scamming charges, stating that he operates a Black-owned business who hires formerly incarcerated and at-risk individuals who are simply attempting to offer cruises to customers. Brock believes Statue City Cruises are only making these accusations since his company is becoming a large competitor and taking business from Burke.
“It’s a lie. I think that’s coming from bigger companies that actually look at us as competition, a David and Goliath type story,” Brock told amNewYork Metro. “It’s very frustrating. It’s nothing I am not used to. I have been doing this my whole life, fighting and struggling.”
Brock combated claims that he misrepresents his cruises by showing a receipt that read, “We do not disembark on Liberty Island or Ellis Island. This is a cruise only.” He also claimed that the mayor’s office is aware and supports his business. City Hall did not respond for comment on the matter.
“As sad as it is to say, about a good 40% of [employees] are ex-felons and they will not be able to get a good paying job no matter where they go,” Brock said. “We help them with financial literacy, we help them with their credit. We help them form businesses. Most of the guys now do have LLC and smaller businesses and smaller tourism companies and through that they’re able to hire other friends and family members to sell their product.”
Burke rebuked these claims, stating he is not angry over a loss of income and instead frustrated that the city won’t enforce the regulations.
“If people have a legitimate business, and they’re operating with the rules and regulations, that’s called competition and that’s fine. We have no beef with that,” Burke said. “There is no vending within that park. Not on the sidewalk, not in the park under the trees, not near Castle Clinton, which is a federal park within the city park. So, it’s more than disingenuous for them to tell you that we’re just angry that we’re losing business.”
The NYPD and New York City Parks Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.