NEW YORK: The Big Apple is getting another “biggest”: the world’s tallest Ferris wheel, part of an ambitious plan to draw New Yorkers and tourists alike to the city’s so-called “forgotten borough.”
The 625-foot-tall, $230 million New York Wheel is to grace a spot in Staten Island overlooking the Statue of Liberty and the downtown Manhattan skyline, offering a singular view as it sweeps higher than other big wheels like the Singapore Flyer, the London Eye and a “High Roller” planned for Las Vegas.
Designed to carry 1,440 passengers at a time, it’s expected to draw 4.5 million people a year to a setting that also would include a 100-shop outlet mall and a 200-room hotel.
It will be “an attraction unlike any other in New York City — in fact, it will be, we think, unlike any other on the planet,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said as he unveiled the plans against the backdrop of New York Harbor. While the privately financed project faces various reviews, officials hope to have the wheel turning by the end of 2015.
The wheel would put Staten Island on the map of superlatives in a place where “biggest” is almost an expectation — home to the nation’s biggest city population, busiest mass-transit system, even the biggest Applebee’s restaurant.
The attraction stands to change the profile of the least populous and most remote of the city’s five boroughs, a sometime municipal underdog that has taken insults from New Jersey and was once known for having the world’s largest ... landfill.
“It’s going to be a real icon. The Ferris wheel will be Staten Island’s Eiffel Tower,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
As a visible addition to the skyline around the harbor, the wheel “gives Staten Island an identity beyond its role as a suburban community,” while letting it tap into the stream of tourist money in a city that drew 50.9 million visitors last year, said Mitchell Moss, a New York University urban policy professor.
The project is expected to bring $500 million in private investment and 1,100 permanent jobs to the borough’s St. George waterfront, and the developers will pay the city $2.5 million a year in rent for the land.
Staten Island isn’t entirely off the tourist map. Its free ferry is the city’s third-largest tourist attraction, carrying an estimated 2 million visitors a year alongside millions of residents, officials say.
But the city has long struggled to entice tourists off the boat and into Staten Island. Much-touted Staten Island sightseeing bus tours fizzled within a year in 2009 for lack of ridership.