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New York - Plan For World's Largest Ferris Wheel Rolls On, Despite Sandy

Published on: January 1, 2013 04:13 PM
By: AP
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This image provided by the New York City Mayor's Office shows an artist's rendering of a proposed 625-foot Ferris wheel planned for the Staten Island waterfront in New York. (AP Photo/Office of the Mayor of New York, File)This image provided by the New York City Mayor’s Office shows an artist’s rendering of a proposed 625-foot Ferris wheel planned for the Staten Island waterfront in New York. (AP Photo/Office of the Mayor of New York, File)

New York - As the city grapples with rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy, developers are pressing ahead with plans for an ambitious addition to the shoreline of storm-torn Staten Island: the world’s largest Ferris wheel.

Sandy’s flooding spurred some changes to the nearly $500 million project, which includes an outlet mall and hotel. But developers haven’t slowed it or scaled it back. Supporters say Staten Island needs the boost now more than ever.

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Yet some residents, a city watchdog and a planning group have asked whether it makes sense to push ahead with a 625-foot-tall tourist attraction, set partly in a flood zone, before officials take a comprehensive look at how to build smarter after Sandy. And some say it’s unseemly to talk about amusement rides when Sandy has left a trail of loss.

The storm gave wheel developer Richard Marin “momentary pause,” he said. But he quickly decided to keep going on a project he considers a one-of-a-kind boon for the city’s oft-dubbed “forgotten borough.”

“We’re providing some things for the city and for the local community that they would have no other way of getting right now,” said Marin, the chief executive of New York Wheel LLC. “Quite frankly, this borough is extremely lucky that this kind of project is under way.”

The company is looking to line up a multimillion-dollar sponsor by April, with serious interest from a half-dozen companies at the moment, as the project works its way through various government reviews, Marin said.

The city Economic Development Corp., which is playing a leading role in the reviews, says it’s “as committed as ever” to the plan. Private money will pay for the project, and the city would get $2.5 million a year in rent for two parking lots where the wheel, mall and hotel would be.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg envisions the attraction becoming one of the city’s premier draws, offering vistas of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty to as many as 30,000 riders a day. Sen. Charles Schumer has called the wheel “Staten Island’s Eiffel Tower.” Developers aim to get it going by the end of 2015.

The project is several miles from the Staten Island communities Sandy struck hardest. Still, the storm pushed 3 to 4 feet of seawater onto the wheel and mall sites, developers said.

The project was already planned so ground floors would sit above what the federal government has, at least to this point, considered a once-in-100-year flood. But the 100-shop outlet center and 200-room hotel are already being raised another 2 feet. The wheel’s terminal building may also be moved up.

Nonetheless, since Sandy, the developers have been making sure the buildings can withstand flooding, Marin said. Surfaces on the wheel terminal’s ground floor are now being planned in marble or other materials that can withstand seawater. Marin said developers are ensuring that electrical and mechanical equipment will be 30 feet above sea level, and the wheel itself will be designed to withstand sustained winds up to 129 mph, far stronger than Sandy’s.

Mall and hotel developer BFC Partners is also elevating key equipment and looking at stone or a water-resistant wall material for the most vulnerable store spaces, partner Joseph Ferrara said. After residents expressed concerns that the mall’s four finger-like buildings could channel a storm surge into the neighborhood, the company is thinking about designing the garages to serve as massive retention pools if needed, said Ferrara, who lives on Staten Island.

“Obviously, my heart goes out to the people who did lose what they lost, but we have to just forge ahead,” he said, pointing to the amenities, 1,200 construction jobs and 1,250 permanent jobs the combined development is expected to create. “To me, that’s an incredible opportunity that Staten Island should not lose out on.”

The developers’ stormproofing plans have addressed some residents’ concerns, said David Goldfarb, an officer in a nearby neighborhood group. While some residents have misgivings, particularly about traffic, there’s also an appetite for seeing something rise on a property where development plans have been broached and shelved for decades, he said.

But in Sandy’s wake, some Staten Island residents are questioning whether it’s the right time and place for the attraction.

Nancy Rooney, a nurse who lives and works on the island, went to a public meeting about the project last month and left with a rueful feeling about it.

“It was in poor taste to be discussing a Ferris wheel and all this glamor — it was very hard to embrace this when you knew that your colleagues and their family members were devastated, and there were people who don’t have heat or electricity or homes,” she said later.

Several City Council members and state legislators said in a letter they were aghast that the meeting was held little more than two weeks after the Oct. 29 storm, though they remained “generally supportive” of the project.

Marin said that developers were aware of the concerns, but that the meeting would have taken months to reschedule because of public-notice requirements.

Others say the wheel should wait until the city thinks through what Sandy will mean for waterfront building.

“Before the storm, I don’t think that anyone had really given much consideration to the fact that these projects are being built in a flood plain,” said Beryl Thurman, a Staten Island environmental activist. She thinks the attraction “should be put on a back burner until the city of New York can come up with real answers.”

The city Independent Budget Office, a watchdog agency, and the Municipal Arts Society, a nonprofit urban planning group, both spotlighted the Ferris wheel plan in separate blog posts wondering what development lessons the city will learn from Sandy.

Building the Ferris wheel and other waterfront projects without a citywide look at coastal building “increases the risk that the next ‘superstorm’ will exact an even higher price tag,” IBO spokesman Doug Turetsky wrote.

But to Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro, Sandy’s blow is no reason to step back from what he sees as a transformative project for the battered borough. If anything, it’s just the opposite.

“We have to show the community, and we have to show the world, we’re coming back,” he said.


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Read Comments (11)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Jan 01, 2013 at 04:42 PM Friend Says:

It's good to know that a heimeshe person from our community is behind the project. Lots of luck. Big kiddush hashem.

2

 Jan 01, 2013 at 05:06 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #1  
Friend Says:

It's good to know that a heimeshe person from our community is behind the project. Lots of luck. Big kiddush hashem.

Yes good luck to him but can you please tell me where is the Kiddush Hashem in this.

What foolishness.

3

 Jan 01, 2013 at 06:12 PM Be Happy Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

Yes good luck to him but can you please tell me where is the Kiddush Hashem in this.

What foolishness.

What's a bigger kidush hashem for our community, to accomplish a project like this that benefits the City or taking government programs?

4

 Jan 01, 2013 at 06:48 PM DRE53 Says:

If the intention here is to build the "biggest" ferris wheel then it's a waste.
China has been building in the last decade like meshuga. The freedom tower being built at ground zero, sor instance, would've been up in a matter of a few months, in china.
What makes them think that china won't decide to build a bigger ferris wheel and will do it in no time?

6

 Jan 01, 2013 at 07:03 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #3  
Be Happy Says:

What's a bigger kidush hashem for our community, to accomplish a project like this that benefits the City or taking government programs?

One thing has nothing to do with the other.

You are confused.

7

 Jan 01, 2013 at 07:50 PM Aryeh Says:

Possibly the worlds largest Frisbee (G-d forbid)

8

 Jan 02, 2013 at 10:11 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #3  
Be Happy Says:

What's a bigger kidush hashem for our community, to accomplish a project like this that benefits the City or taking government programs?

Oh, please! Save the smart readers of VIN your HYPERBOLE! Let the fruma who are behind this project use their "profits" to help the hundreds of thousands of poor Yidden that have nothing to eat tonite!

9

 Jan 02, 2013 at 11:32 AM Geulah Says:

Nimrod, I meant Mike, is behind the biggest ferris wheel. People in Coney Island and the Rockaways can't get past Hurricane Sandy because Nimrod's, I meant Mike's, rapid repair program is run like the street repair program. The number of people without heat and staggering from mold issues is abominable. So let's build a ferris wheel instead. Oh, it's privately funded, no biggie, let the people in the affected areas come and help build it - NYC Pyramid scheme, just Nimrod, I meant Mike, calls it a ferris wheel.

10

 Jan 02, 2013 at 12:44 PM Benjey Says:

Thats the way to go life goes on Mit Hatzlcha
Kol Hakavod

11

 Jan 02, 2013 at 02:46 PM Satmar'er Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

Yes good luck to him but can you please tell me where is the Kiddush Hashem in this.

What foolishness.

If protesting against zionosm is a "chilul hashem", Then anything can be a kiddush hashem.

There's been a major confusion in the meaning of kiddush/chilul hashem in recent years!

12

 Jan 02, 2013 at 03:13 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #11  
Satmar'er Says:

If protesting against zionosm is a "chilul hashem", Then anything can be a kiddush hashem.

There's been a major confusion in the meaning of kiddush/chilul hashem in recent years!

"protesting against zionism" is a chilul Hashem. again this is if you feel like i do that we need to have our state of Israel. dont get me wrong i do not agree with the goverment for me they are too liberal for my taste but still protesting against it is a chilul Hashem, it does not look good when jews argue against each other.

when i see these nut jobs of the nk that to me is the biggest chilul Hashem.
they make me sick!!!!!

13

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