There is only one way to get to Liberty Island from NYC and it is via the official ferry that departs from Battery Park. That's it! Your only option! Unless you're coming from New Jersey! Still, because the Statue of Liberty's overwhelming popularity and international fame make it an easy cash cow for the enterprising grifter, below-board street vendors have long peddled tickets for tours that will take you in that general direction, if not quite there: tours that circle around the island without ever making landfall, and may therefore leave customers feeling distinctly scammed.
But now, NY Waterway—which manages Pier 36 in Battery Park—tells the NY Post that starting today, it will strip docking permits from boat operators who do business with unlicensed ticket sellers.
"Effective 12:01 AM Wednesday, August 21, 2019 we will no longer permit tour operations that are affiliated in any manner with street sales or sellers," reads an email from Donald Liloia, Senior Vice President of NY Waterway, shared with Gothamist. "Any violation of this restriction will result in the revocation of all your berthing permits. The situation created by the street sellers in Lower Manhattan has become intolerable for tourists, residents and workers alike, and violates the requirement that each permittee conduct its operations in an orderly, lawful, and proper manner. We have decided to do our part to assist the City in eliminating the problem by no longer allowing any operation that accepts tickets sold by street vendors to access any DockNYC location."
For reference, DockNYC is the network of the city's 11 docking sites.
"For operators that have legitimate relationships with tour companies and can present verifiable agreements for the same we will schedule only those departures," the email continues. "Proof of a scheduled departure will be required and will be verified again on site. I cannot stress any clearer that a single violation of this restriction will result in the complete revocation of all of your berthing permits."
The only way to get to the Statue of Liberty and/or Ellis Island is to buy passes through Statue Cruises, where you'll find tiered access options that can get you just to Liberty Island, or into the statue's pedestal, or all the way up to the crown. In an attempt to crack down on unauthorized vendors who sell unwitting tourists tickets to boat rides through New York Harbor—sometimes for nearly twice the price of Statue Cruises tickets—the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection has proposed a rule that would require those hawkers to tell buyers ahead of time whether or not their boat will actually land at Liberty or Ellis Island. Hearings are scheduled for September 16th.
Naturally, the vendors themselves do not appear pleased with the policy shift, one telling the Post that they were simply informed of the change "without a call or a meeting."
"Our ticket has a disclaimer that we do not take tourists to the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island, that we do not disembark," Oluwabamsie Jegede of New York Iconic Tours continued. "What we offer is a one-hour tour around the Statue of Liberty."
That distinction, especially for non-English-speaking tourists, may not be immediately clear from the fine print on a ticket. And then, I can tell you from recent experience that you definitely do not need one hour to circle Liberty Island, which itself probably takes something like 15 minutes of water travel to reach, and just isn't that big. You will know that you're doing the Statue of Liberty right if you both click the above link to purchase your tickets through Statue Cruises, and if you have to clear an eerily TSA-reminiscent security checkpoint before boarding your boat. If you do plan to visit Lady Liberty, here's what you need to know before you go. An experience deserving of seven arbitrarily awarded crowns out of 10, IMO!