NY Times Article – Betting on the New York Ferris Wheel to Elevate Staten Island’s Fortunes

It does not cost anything to take the boat there. A quaint waterfront minor league baseball stadium offers sweeping views of Lower Manhattan and cheap tickets. A fort dating to the War of 1812 is one of the country’s oldest military installations. There had been talk of a Nascar track.

And yet the problem persists — how to get tourists to venture out onto Staten Island and not take the next ferry right back to Manhattan.

Now, New York City officials believe they have the answer: a gigantic wheel.

Or, more precisely, a 630-foot-tall one that would become one of the world’s largest Ferris wheels.

It is the city’s latest and arguably most ambitious attempt to draw tourists to Staten Island. Workers have begun laying the foundation for the wheel, which, when it opens for business in two years, will carry as many as 1,440 riders and be visible across New York Harbor.

Every year, two million tourists ride the Staten Island Ferry, and yet most of them never leave the terminal.

“What’s great is that people do come to Staten Island; they just have nothing to get off the ferry for,” said Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future, a research institute. “People on the ferry are going to see this huge wheel beckoning, and lots of people are going to want to do it.”

Officials hope a Ferris wheel, seen in a rendering, will lure tourists to Staten Island.CreditPerkins Eastman

Tourism officials are already promoting the wheel, along with the new Whitney Museum of American Art and the observatory atop One World Trade Center, as part of “the new New York,” said Fred Dixon, the chief executive of NYC & Company, the city’s marketing and tourism organization.

“We were bullish on the idea from the beginning,” Mr. Dixon said recently in an interview from London, one of the European cities where he had been promoting the wheel.

The wheel and a sprawling outlet mall are known collectively as “Destination St. George,” and will be a “game-changer” in the quest to attract more tourists to that Staten Island neighborhood, Mr. Dixon said. “There’s no question that’s been the single biggest challenge, to convince them to get off the ferry and spend some time there.”

But before the wheel can attract anybody, it has to be designed, fabricated, shipped in pieces to New York from around the world, delivered to the site on barges, and erected like a gigantic K’nex project. The city’s Economic Development Corporation has asked the Army Corps of Engineers for permission to build a temporary pier for the unloading of the barges.

Whole Story Here.