Staten Island, arguably New York’s most often forgotten borough, may finally be getting its moment in the spotlight. Talks are in the works of creating a giant 600 ft Ferris wheel near the Staten Island Ferry Terminal to generate activity for the waterfront. To put 600 feet in perspective, think bigger than the Singapore Flyer at 451 feet and the London Eye’s 450 ft marker, and much bigger than Coney Island’s Wonder Wheel at 150 feet. While millions enjoy the free trip across the harbor on the ferry every year, few venture far from the boat. The Ferris Wheel is intended to capitalize on the Island’s amazing views of Manhattan and build up the Island’s visitor flow. “It’s the greatest thing that has been proposed for Staten Island, especially on the waterfront. This could landmark us. We have 2 million tourists a year on the ferry, so we have a built-in audience to use it, and it’s a different audience every day. Once you can attract them off that boat, you got them here,” James Molinaro, the borough president, stated. More after the break.
Last year, the New York City Economic Development Corp. asked developers for ideas on developing two parcels on Staten Island’s St. George waterfront. The future site of the Ferris Wheel, which used to function as a rail yard, is currently serving as parking lots beween the ferry terminal and the Staten Island Yankee minor league baseball field. “The sites occupy a prominent waterfront location near a major transportation hub and a commercial, cultural and civic center” with “assets that have yet to be fully utilized,” according to the economic development agency’s request. Of course, the project has a long way to go before it can be realized. For starters, several negotiations are being debated about other possible uses for the waterfront sites. As Bloomberg News reported, Julie Wood, a spokeswoman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, confirmed that the city has heard from several companies interested in developing the land. And, no permanent deal has been reached at this time. If the Ferris Wheel were to be approved, riders would enjoy an hour-and-twenty-minute ride for a full rotation on the wheel. Outfitted with glass capsules, much like the London Eye, the wheel would rotate so slowly that people could easily step into the capsules as they pass through a building beneath the wheel. “It’s really hard to think of another place in New York City that has fallen so short of its potential for economic development,” said Jonathan Bowles, the center’s director told the WSJ. “There’s no reason why you can’t get significantly more tourists to stay on Staten Island for half an hour, or an hour.” While the continual stream of people generated by the ferry seems to ensure success for the wheel, Staten Island’s Councilwoman Debi Rose expressed to the Staten Island Advance, ”I haven’t taken a position on the idea, because there’s a lot that needs to be looked into, and I want to hear from the community. The Ferris wheel seems to be quite imposing, so it’s something that we need to sort of fully vet.” The planning documents list SOM as project architect with Plaza Capital Management, LLC as investors, and Cornell University Atkinson Center for Sustainability will help to be an alternative energy exhibitor. “We spent 50 years being the borough with the largest dump in the world — it’s only fair that we have the largest Ferris Wheel,” explained the Island’s Borough President James Molinaro. Sources: The WSJ; Bloomberg; Staten Island Advance + SI Live; Curbed.com; Video via Staten Island Advance