New York tour companies are offering the hard-to-get memorial tickets as part of larger sightseeing packages starting Sept. 12, the day the memorial opens to the public for the first time.This goes against the very spirit of the memorial and these companies are charging for access to the site at a time when the memorial and museum are complaining that they need millions of dollars to secure the opening and for operating costs for years to come. Some of the tour companies got the tickets in a deal to reduce traffic and congestion around Lower Manhattan - to reduce dwell times at stops, and other efforts to reduce pollution and traffic, but it means that if you want to see the memorial, your best option now appears to be buying a ticket through one of these outfits, rather than directly getting the tickets for free.
New York Water Taxi, for example, will offer timed passes to the 9/11 memorial to customers who buy a $27.50 Hop-On/Hop-Off ticket.
These paid tours, being offered by five companies, are now the only way for visitors to see the 9/11 memorial in the first 10 days it is open because all of the free online tickets for those days have already been snapped up.
The free tickets disappeared quickly after the National September 11 Memorial & Museum opened online reservations on July 11. More than 25,000 people reserved passes on the first day alone, a memorial spokesman said.
The reason the memorial gave some of the free passes to private tour companies, rather than opening more of them up for public reservations, is that the companies have agreed to follow the city's plan for reducing bus traffic in lower Manhattan after the memorial opens, the spokesman said.
The tour companies have agreed to only park in designated bus spaces and to limit their drop-off and layover times, according to the Department of Transportation's new rules.
Private companies are prohibited from directly charging for the memorial passes, which are always free, the memorial spokesman said.
Other companies that are offering the tour packages include New York Waterway, which is offering 9/11 memorial passes in conjunction with its $4 East River ferry service and slightly more expensive Hudson River ferry service, and Big Taxi Tours, which is giving away memorial passes to anyone who buys a $32 downtown bus tour ticket.
Statue Cruises and Gray Line will also offer packages but have not announced them yet and did not respond to requests for comment.
So, while these companies aren't directly charging fees, you can't obtain the free tickets unless you're plunking down money for other parts of their tours. They are violating the spirit of the free memorial access.