NYC Said to Plan Staten Island Ferris Wheel to Rival London Eye

London Eye
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 05: A general view of the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament from the South Bank at twilight on April 5, 2012 in London, England. A full rotation of the giant Ferris wheel, the largest of it's kind in Europe, takes 30 minutes and rises to a height of 135 metres. On a clear day one can see for 40km from the top. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

The north shore of New York City’s Staten Island near its ferry connection with Lower Manhattan may become the home of a Ferris wheel bigger than the London Eye, according to a person familiar with the potential deal.

A bid from New York’s Plaza Capital Group Management LLC to build the attraction leads four other proposals to develop the area in the southernmost borough, said a person briefed on the matter who wasn’t authorized to speak about it. The other four bids, which proposed mixes of office and commercial space, are far behind the wheel idea, the person said. The news was reported earlier by the Staten Island Advance.

The New York City Economic Development Corp. last year asked developers for ideas on developing two parcels on Staten Island’s St. George waterfront, which has missed out on the “huge opportunity” of New York City’s 8 million residents, according to the agency. The ferry connecting the island to Manhattan, 25 minutes across the bay, is the city’s third-most-popular tourist attraction and 70,000 daily commuters pass through the terminal.

“It’s the greatest thing that has been proposed for Staten Island, especially on the waterfront,” James Molinaro, the borough president, said in a telephone interview. “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.”

Sprinting Tortoise

Meir Laufer, the chief executive officer of Plaza, didn’t immediately return a telephone call and e-mail seeking comment.

At a proposed height of 600 feet, the Ferris wheel would be bigger than the EDF Energy London Eye, on the South bank of the Thames in England’s capital.

The Eye is the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel at nearly 443 feet (135 meters) high, according to its website, and provides “unrivalled views” of the city to 10,000 visitors a day. The wheel’s capsules travel at 0.6 miles per hour, or “twice as fast as a tortoise sprinting,” the website says.

The New York City Council would need to approve any project. The tracts, which were once rail yards, are adjacent to the ferry terminal and on either side of a minor league baseball field. They are currently used as parking lots.

“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.

No Done Deal

Because the sites are in the North Shore Empire Zone, would-be developers can benefit from various discretionary tax credits and incentives intended to attract and expand businesses, the so-called request for expressions of interest said.

“We received several compelling responses to the RFEI and are in active negotiations with multiple respondents,” said Benjamin Branham, an EDC spokesman. “It’s our policy to not comment on specific proposals during an open RFEI when negotiations are ongoing. If there was actually a deal, then sure. But the fact is that there isn’t.”

Julie Wood, a spokeswoman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, confirmed that the city has heard from several companies interested in developing the land. The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

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