A Turf War Rages at Statue of Liberty

Selling tickets to the landmark is a cutthroat, lucrative business
By Linda Hervieux,  Newser Staff
Posted May 30, 2017 8:47 AM CDT
At the Statue of Liberty, a Turf War
Boats ferry visitors to the statue on Liberty Island in New York Harbor.   (Getty Images/franckreporter)

Unsuspecting visitors to the Statue of Liberty may not realize that the ode to freedom is herself at the heart of one of New York City's most vicious turf wars. Bruising competition among ultra-aggressive hawkers selling tickets to boats that may—or may not—dock at the statue is behind a spate of violence that includes a shooting last month, the New York Times reports. Vendors who buy cut-rate tickets in bulk "make a lot of money down there," says Jessica Lappin, chief of a business group in lower Manhattan. "And they’ll defend it with knives and guns if they need to.”

If that sounds ominous, it should. Victims include an Arkansas tourist who suffered a fractured skull last year after refusing a fierce sales pitch, per the New York Daily News. In April, a woman returning from her lunch break was shot in the knee, per ABC7. Cops have made about 20 arrests in two years and blame ex-cons-turned-hustlers. But others point a finger at tour boat operators who profit from the hawkers, who pocket about $20 per ticket. (Only one company is licensed to take visitors to Liberty Island; the rest simply cruise by Lady Liberty.) In response to the violence, the city last year passed a law requiring a license for vendors. But some tour operators say cracking down is impossible. "I don’t have the luxury to say, 'Don’t sell tickets to this guy, this guy, or this guy," one tells the Times. (Lady Liberty was first drawn as an Arab peasant.)

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