LOWER MANHATTAN — Those who missed their chance to reserve free tickets to the 9/11 memorial for the first week it is open can still get in — for a price.
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.
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.
Hernando Castro, owner of Big Taxi Tours, said the 9/11 memorial opening coincides with the peak of the tourism season downtown, but it is too soon to say whether offering the memorial passes will increase his business.
"We'll see," Castro said.