For years now, street vendors in Lower Manhattan have been duping tourists into paying for unauthorized Statue of Liberty cruises, promising them views of the monument then shunting them off on a bus to New Jersey. Many have complained, but little has been done. Then this weekend, Alec Baldwin and his family got scammed. And just like that, the city has announced they're ordering the companies to cease operations.
Coincidence? Don't count on it.
Speaking with Gothamist, the urban-agenda-setting actor said he had no direct contact with the mayor, but acknowledged the possibility that his own exploitation had factored into the crackdown.
"I think if it's someone who's well known, who has a lot of followers in the media..." he offered, adding, "I doubt my recommendation is going to move de Blasio's office in any direction. But if you see someone write something and many, many other people chime in and say, 'I've had the same experience,' I think that's what it was."
According to Baldwin, he and wife spent $40 per ticket for his three children to visit Lady Liberty. But like many eager sightseers before him, the actor later learned that he'd actually signed up for a lengthy trip to New Jersey, where a boat might take him in the general vicinity of the attraction.
“No one ever mentioned New F***ing Jersey!” the celebrity wrote in a widely-shared Instagram post, after jumping ship and getting a ferry to Staten Island.
The notorious bait-and-switch is the result of city restrictions prohibiting private tours from accessing Liberty Island. The vendors have also attracted the ire of New Yorkers, who say they're aggressive and sometimes violent.
In a press release, the city announced its intention to send two cease and desist letters to suspected swindlers, Freedom Cruises and Sphinx Transport, which are allegedly operating non-permitted bus stops in Lower Manhattan.
In addition to targeting the two companies, the mayor promised a multi-agency effort to continue cracking down on all vendors who peddle below-board boat trips to tourists.
“Tourists and visitors [and Alec Baldwin] have been taken for a ride, and it’s unacceptable," Mayor de Blasio said in a statement. "We won’t let up until illegal and deceitful practices are a thing of the past.”
Asked if the enforcement push came as a direct result of Baldwin not getting to see the Statue of Liberty, a spokesperson for the mayor told Gothamist: “The Administration has been working to crackdown on deceptive companies and aggressive vending for months. Mr. Baldwin brought increased attention to the issue tourists and visitors face every day, and our agency partners are continuing to work together until this problem is a thing of the past.”
While Baldwin was formerly one of de Blasio's most high-profile backers, the relationship between the two has reportedly cooled, and this apparent act of retaliation against the celeb's tormenters doesn't seem to have patched things up. Asked today by Gothamist if he supported the mayor, Baldwin replied: "No comment."