The world's largest Ferris wheel will be part of an almost $500 million development on Staten Island that will also feature an outlet mall and hotel next to an existing minor-league baseball stadium, New York City officials said.
The tentatively named New York Wheel will be a short walk from the Staten Island Ferry, the city's third-most-popular tourist attraction, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said today. It will stand 625 feet (190 meters) high, exceeding by 84 feet the Singapore Flyer and by 75 feet a planned wheel in Las Vegas.
"No question: The wheel and the outlet shopping center will put Staten Island right in the center of travel plans for millions of visitors to our city," Bloomberg said at a news conference on the island. "Both will bring new life and economic opportunity to the borough."
The planned attraction, one of the largest private investments in Staten Island history, is part of the mayor's effort to spur development on the borough's north shore while continuing to attract record tourists to the city and repurpose its waterfront. This year, Bloomberg set a goal to welcome 55 million annual visitors by 2015, when the wheel is set to open.
BFC Partners, a Brooklyn-based developer, will construct Harbor Commons, a 350,000-square-foot retail complex featuring 100 designer outlets and restaurants and a 200-room, 120,000- square-foot hotel south of the ballpark, where an affiliate of the New York Yankees plays.
No government money will be used on the project, which will be built on city-owned land now used for parking lots, said Seth Pinsky, president of the city's Economic Development Corp., which helped plan the project. The city will gain financially through $2.5 million in annual rent and tax revenue expected to net $100 million over 30 years, the mayor said. The project needs City Council approval.
Bloomberg spoke with the Manhattan skyline as his backdrop, flanked by more than a dozen elected officials and project planners along with poster-sized renditions of the new waterfront.
Pinsky said the wheel will become a "true icon on the skyline of New York City." U.S. Senator Charles Schumer said it would rival Paris's Eiffel Tower. George Fertitta, who heads NYC & Company, the city's tourist arm, said it would change the way the world thinks about Staten Island and the island thinks about itself.
"This is the place you're going to want to be," said Borough President James Molinaro.
Construction should begin in early 2014 for the ride, which will operate seven days a week, 365 days per year, except during severe weather or maintenance, from about 10 a.m to 10 p.m. in the fall, winter and spring. In the summer, the wheel will be in use for longer hours, the mayor said.
Officials expect a peak of 30,000 riders per day and about 4.5 million visitors per year. Rides in the 36 capsules, each able to carry as many as 40 passengers with a maximum capacity of 1,440 people per ride, will last about 38 minutes.
The designer and manufacturer will be Starneth BV, which includes members of the team that built the 443-foot London Eye observation wheel.
The complex will generate $480 million in private investment and create more than 1,200 construction jobs and 1,100 permanent ones, the mayor's office said.
The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.