New Yorkers looking to take a relaxing Sunday ride on the NYC Ferry were met with chaos as slow service and long lines led to hour-long waits for the boats.
Upper Manhattan Councilman Ben Kallos was stuck waiting more than 40 minutes for a ferry at the E. 90th St. dock, the second stop on the route out of Soundview in the Bronx.
Kallos said the boats were filling up at the Soundview stop, leaving no room for riders at the Upper East Side dock, where downtown-bound ferries stop every 30 minutes on weekends.
“This isn’t the first weekend that this has happened,” griped Kallos. “There is no one on each dock trying to manage the lines. People are pushing to the front in a panic trying to get a spot.”
He was heading to the Wall St. stop with his wife and 15-month-old daughter.
Kallos said he pointed out to the Economic Development Corporation, a nonprofit arm of the municipal government that oversees the ferry service, that the NYC Ferry app did not provide alerts about long wait times.
Extensive lines were also reported at the Wall St. dock, where beach-goers were hoping to score a calming ride to the Rockaways. Riders waiting at the Sunset Park dock at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, which also serves the ferry route to the Rockaways, said they were blindsided by absurdly long lines.
Kathy Jones, a Flatbush resident, counted more than 100 people in line to catch a beach-bound boat. She waited for more than an hour and said each ferry arriving at the Brooklyn dock only had enough room for around 15 people to board.
Jones said she got to the dock at about 10 a.m. and by 11 a.m. two boats had come and gone without enough space for her and her family.
“The thing that irritated me is that there’s nothing on their Twitter, nothing on their website, no warning that there are extensive delays,” said Jones. “We could have gotten to Fire Island in the same amount of time that we’ve been sitting here.”
“Of course Brooklyn gets the backseat as usual," Jones said.
Brooklyn Heights resident Mike Barry said he waited in line at the Sunset Park dock for at least an hour for a Rockaways-bound boat, and watched two packed ferries pass through without enough room for him and his family.
“We decided to take the ferry because it was nice,” said Barry. “In retrospect, we should have taken the subway.”
EDC spokeswoman Stephanie Baez said approximately 20 customer service agents were at the ferry’s busiest landings Sunday.
“Due to the warm holiday weekend, we’re experiencing very high ridership and increased wait times," said Baez “We’re running the maximum amount of service possible to clear wait times and ask riders to check the app for real-time updates.”
Long lines and wait times on summer weekends have plagued the NYC Ferry since it launched in 2017. This Memorial Day weekend’s pleasant weather led to high demand for the system’s 150-capacity boats.
NYC Ferry last year began rolling out boats that can hold 350 passengers, but Kallos said more frequent service is also needed.
“This isn’t a whoopsie,” said Kallos. “You know when you have high ridership. If you’re seeing wait times like this all over the city, you should deploy more boats.”
Sunday’s kerfuffle came less than two weeks after the city approved a controversial $84.5 million contract to purchase 19 ferry boats from Hornblower, which operates the service. Transit advocates have bemoaned the high subsidies associated with the NYC Ferry, which carries fewer passengers per year than the subway on an average weekday. NYC Ferry registered 4.1 million rides for the year in 2018. Average weekday subway ridership was 5.44 million in 2018.
“Millions of dollars are being spent on this and they can’t even serve their ridership,” said Kallos. “If the boats don’t have the capacity, they should have considered that in the original contracting before the city bought them.”