New York City’s ferry system was hit with crowds of passengers over the Memorial Day weekend, leading to hourlong waits to board vessels and spurring complaints that the fleet of boats can’t handle the demand.
City Councilman Ben Kallos said he planned to enjoy Sunday’s sunny weather with his family aboard a NYC Ferry boat. He arrived at the ferry system’s East 90th Street stop in Manhattan just before 11 a.m. When a ferry pulled up, only 50 people, about half of the waiting line, were able to board, he said. The councilman and his family waited 30 minutes more for another boat. By that time the line had grown by an additional 40 people, who then had to wait for the boat after his.
“This is supposed to be a form of public transportation,” Mr. Kallos, a Democrat, said in an interview Monday. “We can’t live in a reality where you have to wait for a ferry and then not have enough room on that ferry. Or wait an hour or half an hour for the next ferry. That’s just not acceptable.”
NYC Ferry has 21 landings across its system. It operates routes along the East River, stopping in the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn. It also has a route between lower Manhattan and the Rockaways in Queens. Many of the passengers who endured the long waits over the weekend were heading to a beach in the Rockaways. Passengers pay $2.75 for a ride on a ferry, but the city heavily subsidizes the cost of the trips.
On Monday, NYC Ferry sent out an alert to riders, saying that it “is experiencing larger than normal crowds today throughout all routes which may result in longer than normal wait times.”
A spokeswoman for the New York City Economic Development Corp., which runs the NYC Ferry system, said Monday that because of the warm holiday weekend, there was high ridership and increased wait times during peak weekend hours.
In anticipation of the Memorial Day weekend, NYC Ferry rented four additional vessels to accommodate the extra capacity.
“We’re running the maximum amount of service possible to clear wait times and ask riders to check the app for real-time updates,” the spokeswoman said.
Chris Grundemann, a 38-year-old network engineer from Brooklyn, waited 90 minutes on Sunday morning to catch a ferry from Sunset Park, Brooklyn, to the Rockaways. He and his fiancée eventually made it out to Jacob Riis Beach for a few hours. But when the clouds began rolling in, he said, the beach cleared out, creating a rush for the NYC Ferry shuttle bus and city buses.
Ultimately, the couple ended up skipping the buses and the return ride on the NYC Ferry, opting instead to walk across the Marine Parkway Bridge in the blowing rain to eventually catch a private black car home.
“We will definitely still try to use some form of public transportation to the Rockaways,” he said. “We just need to find a better way to do it.”