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LIC Commuters Fed Up With Crowds on 'Less Reliable' East River Ferry Route

 Riders waiting to board the NYC Ferry at the Hunters Point South landing in Long Island City.
Riders waiting to board the NYC Ferry at the Hunters Point South landing in Long Island City.
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DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly

HUNTERS POINT — It hasn't been smooth sailing for East River Ferry riders on the Queens waterfront.

Those who use the route — which launched in 2011 but transitioned to the new citywide NYC Ferry system on May 1 — claim service has gotten worse since the switch, with longer lines and more crowded boats.

Several Long Island City riders say the drop in price for the ferry — from $4 fares on weekdays and $6 on weekends to $2.75 under the new system — has led to an uptick in passengers, resulting in ferries that are sometimes too full by the time they reach the Hunters Point South stop.

"It's been pretty bad," said Long Island City resident Tom Reinecke, who's been taking the ferry to and from work in Midtown for about three years. "Since the city took over, it's just been a lot more crowds and lines and just less reliable."

Since Hunters Point South is the second-to-last stop on the ride to 34th Street, boats operating during the morning rush are sometimes filled up or can only fit a portion of the people lined up to take them, he and others said.

Reinecke said he experiences this "multiple times a week," forcing him to wait at least 20 minutes for the next ferry to arrive.

"They're having capacity issues," he said, adding that while he appreciates the cheaper fare, he's not sure it's worth it.

"I would rather pay the additional amount of money," he said. "My preference is to have it be reliable and get me from A to B on time."

NYC FerryA NYC Ferry boat heads to Manhattan from Long Island City (DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly)

Sal Furnari, who commutes from Long Island City to Wall Street via the ferry, agreed that the crowds have been worse since the route switched from previous operator Waterway NY to NYC Ferry, a city-subsidized service operated by the Hornblower company.

"It's terrible. It was much better before," he said. "I don't know if the city envisioned the ridership would go up the way it did."

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NYC Ferry is "already proving to be incredibly popular" in the more than two months it's been running, the city's Economic Development Corporation acknowledged.

"We’re doing everything we can to serve as many riders as possible, which includes chartering large capacity vessels to help meet demand, making real-time changes to accommodate riders (such as adding flex/swing boats to pick up passengers) and running up to 5 vessels on the East River route during morning rush hour," EDC spokeswoman Stephanie Baez said in a statement.

"We’re also continuing to expand our fleet, with more boats set to arrive in New York in the months ahead."

The East River route alone — which stops at Wall Street, DUMBO, South Williamsburg, North Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Hunters Point South and East 34th Street — has seen an average of about 7,200 riders a day since its launch May 1, with weekends tending to be busier, the EDC said.

The agency declined to give ridership numbers for the route in previous years when it was operated by NY Waterway, claiming it's too early to draw comparisons between the two.

But an EDC study from 2013 shows that NY Waterway's East River Ferry served approximately 3,257 riders on weekdays that year — years before the line hit its peak ridership in 2016, with 1.5 million trips taken.

Summer months are always a popular time for the ferry, and some commuters expect the crowds might lessen next month when the city launches service on the new Astoria route, which will open a second Long Island City ferry landing at Gantry Plaza State Park.

NYC Ferry The line for the NYC Ferry at Hunters Point grew longer on July 12 after service on the nearby 7 train was disrupted (DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly)

Other riders theorized that shoddy subway service in recent months has contributed to more people taking the boats. 

"If there's trouble on the 7 train, forget it," said East River rider Donna Matos.

Last week, dozens of people flocked to queue up at the Hunters Point South ferry landing after a mechanical problem halted service on some 7 trains during the morning commute.

Long Island City resident Meghan Cirrito said she's been disappointed so far by NYC Ferry service, which she initially expected to be a "more pleasant way" to get her young son to summer camp in Manhattan than the "oppressively hot" subway.

But three times that week, the ferry had been too packed for them to board at the Hunters Point South stop, she noted.

"Only a handful of people can get on," Cirrito said. "I did not realize that this would be such an issue, or we probably would not have signed him up for this camp."