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City Probes Hornblower Relationship With Aggressive Ferry Ticket Sellers

 Hornblower Inc, the company tapped to run the planned citywide ferry service, is under investigation.
Hornblower Inc, the company tapped to run the planned citywide ferry service, is under investigation.
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LOWER MANHATTAN — The Department of Investigation is reviewing ferry operator Hornblower Inc., and its connection to a sometimes violent and illegal ticket trade at The Battery, DNAinfo New York has learned.

The DOI investigation was launched after a May DNAinfo story detailed Hornblower's practice of hiring questionable companies that were helping to fuel a network of aggressive ticket sellers — boat ticket hawkers who were tricking tourists hoping to sail to the Statue of Liberty, sources said.

Hornblower — the operator tapped to run the city's new ferry service — used several ticket resale companies run by men with criminal records, including one vendor that was led by a convicted rapist while he was still in jail, DNAinfo reported.

The contractors bought their tickets in bulk for at least $50,000 at a time in cash from Hornblower, then hired street sellers, many of whom were convicted sex offenders or had violent criminal records themselves, to peddle tickets at The Battery.

A spokesperson for the Economic Development Corporation, Anthony Hogrebe, said that the city asked DOI to "perform a review" of Hornblower.

"Out of an abundance of caution the city asked DOI to perform a review of Hornblower," Hogrebe said. "DOI has told us nothing that suggests any issues."

DOI declined to comment.

The NYPD has made dozens of arrests as part of an ongoing investigation into what many, including Hornblower subsidiary Statue Cruises, had called a "chaotic" situation.

Statue Cruises, which docks at The Battery, is the only cruise line authorized to sell tickets that actually land at the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island.

The crush of ticket sellers that hover near The Battery are selling legitimate tickets, but for cruises that sail around the landmarks, the NYPD has said. They confuse tourists by telling them lies including that one can't actually land on Liberty Island.

The NYPD's investigation was beefed up in the wake of several violent incidents, including one that resulted in a tourist's skull getting fractured after rebuffing an illegal vendor in February 2016.

In May, the company told DNAinfo that "Hornblower, nor any Hornblower employee, would ever enter into any agreement with a company or individual who would knowingly engage in unethical or illegal activity." 

Hornblower did not immediately respond to requests for comment related to the DOI investigation.