Bloomberg announces plan for record-breaking ferris wheel

In an effort to boost tourism in New York City’s “forgotten borough,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced the city’s plans last Thursday to construct the world’s largest ferris wheel on the St. George waterfront on Staten Island.

The $230 million New York Wheel shall stand 625 feet in height, surpassing the Singapore Flyer, the London Eye and the planned Las Vegas High Roller. Its 36 capsules  would elevate 1,440 passengers to picturesque vantage points of the Statue of Liberty, the New York harbor and the lower Manhattan skyline. Below, a 470,000-square-foot complex, dubbed Harbor Commons, would host 100 designer outlet shops and a 200-room hotel.

The combined projects are expected to garner $480 million in private investments, creating 1,200 construction jobs and 1,100 permanent jobs within the Staten Island

community. According to Kyle Giunta, vice president of Robinson Lerer & Montgomery Finsbury, the communications firm for New York Wheel LLC, energy designs for the wheel will be driven by alternative energy and sustainability.

“Along with significant open green space at the site, the New York Wheel’s design will strive for Platinum [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] certification, the highest rating of sustainable building, and expects to be powered predominantly by clean
energy,” Giunta said.

With construction set to begin early 2014, Mayor Bloomberg believes the wheel will make a lasting impression on New York’s overlooked borough.

“The New York Wheel will be an attraction unlike any other in New York City, even unlike any other on the planet,” Bloomberg said.

Staten Island, with its 470,000 inhabitants, is largely unnoticed as a compenent of New York City. CAS sophomore Saman Marji, a Staten Islander, is pleased the city has recognized its most suburban borough.

“Staten Island is like an adopted child compared to other boroughs,” Marji said. “It is about time that New York City government does something to help small businesses on the island.”

Steinhardt sophomore Martha Askandar remains uneasy about other issues that might be displaced as a result of the project.

“[Consider] the state of New York City public schools, local parks in underprivileged areas and the budget cuts that a lot of fine arts programs are experiencing,” Askandar said.

While New Yorkers express both enthusiasm and skepticism for the Wheel, the attraction would find its greatest market among tourists. NYU tourism professor Cary Broussard says the wheel will yield positive results for Staten Island.

“New York City is competing as a tourism destination in a global market and the wheel is raising the attraction of tourism overall,” Broussard said.

While the Staten Island Ferry carries 20 million passengers annually across the Upper New York Bay, Broussard said tourists tend to disregard a visit to the island.

“The majority of the tourists ride the ferry only to see the Statue of Liberty,” Broussard added.

For tourists like Australian Wayne Smith, a stop on Staten Island isn’t a top priority.

“It’s just a matter of fitting in what we can in seven days,” Smith said.

The grand opening of the wheel is expected by the end of 2015.

A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Oct. 3 print edition. Ben Watanabe is a contributing writer. Email him at [email protected].