Sunday, July 1, 2012

Giant Ferris Wheel Proposed for Ferry Terminal

The Bloomberg administration is in advanced talks with an investment group seeking to build a giant Ferris wheel akin to the London Eye. Plaza Capital Group Management wants to build the world's largest observation wheel in a parking lot near the Staten Island Ferry Terminal which would lift visitors some 600 feet into the air - more than 150 feet higher than the Eye of London. The proposal is a response to an RFP the city issued last August to redevelopment two parking lots near the Staten Island Yankees Stadium.

Officials from the city only said they were in negotiations with several respondents, and reps from Plaza remained mum on the topic. Each year, the London site attracts about 3.5 million visitors who sit in large, glass-enclosed pods that offer panoramic views of London.

By comparison, the London Eye, the popular 12-year-old tourist attraction on the South Bank near Parliament, is 443 feet tall, while Deno's Wonder Wheel at Coney Island stands 150 feet high.

The investor group, Plaza Capital Group Management, responded to an August 2011 request for bids from New York City's Economic Development Corp. to develop two parking lots next to the terminal and on both sides of the Staten Island Yankees stadium. Plaza plans to develop the site furthest from the ferry terminal to the northwest, the people briefed on the proposal said.

Still, no deal has been reached, and a spokesman for the EDC, Benjamin Branham, said that the agency is "in negotiations with multiple respondents" for the two sites. Any development would need approval from the City Council.

You might be asking yourself, "Staten Island? Really?"

The director of the Center for an Urban Future weighed in on that point, suggesting that Plaza sees the untapped potential of New York's most ignored borough, noting that more than 2 million tourists ride the Staten Island Ferry every year, but few actually leave the boat. A gigantic wheel to see all of city from might give people a reason to spend some time in S.I.

The Plaza group isn't the only developer that's tried to put an observation wheel in New York. Office landlord Douglas Durst and Tom Fox, co-founder of New York Water Taxi, unsuccessfully tried to convince officials to let them develop a large wheel on Governors Island more than two years ago, a proposed investment of around $100 million.

That attempt crashed and burned.