The World’s Biggest Ferris Wheel: Staten Island’s Only Hope?

A rendering of the Staten Island Ferris Wheel, via
A rendering of the Staten Island Ferris Wheel, via

In an attempt to convince tourists to get off the Staten Island ferry and actually set foot on what’s been affectionately dubbed “Satan Island” by some begrudging residents, developers have begun construction on what’s slated to become one of the world’s biggest Ferris wheels, the New York Times reports. The 630-foot-tall New York Wheel, expected to open in early 2017, could prove to be the tourist trap needed to boost the borough’s local economy.

The wheel-building is the most ambitious effort yet to draw tourists to the city’s least-populated boroughIn case you thought there was a reason to ever visit a Ferris wheel-less Staten Island, the Times stresses again and again that there really isn’t: “The problem persists — how to get tourists to venture out onto Staten Island and not take the next ferry right back to Manhattan…. Every year, two million tourists ride the Staten Island Ferry, and yet most of them never leave the terminal,” writes Patrick McGeehan. And, third reminder: “What’s great is that people do come to Staten Island; they just have nothing to get off the ferry for,” Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future, a research institute, said. And, third reminder: “There’s no question that’s been the single biggest challenge, to convince them to get off the ferry and spend some time there,” Fred Dixon, the chief executive of NYC & Company, the city’s marketing and tourism organization, told the Times. Poor Staten Island! Currently, the borough is home only to the world’s biggest Ang, the reality star who’s become something of a local ambassador, but who has not proven enough of a tourist attraction to boost the local economy. But the world’s biggest Ferris wheel could offer hope: “People on the ferry are going to see this huge wheel beckoning, and lots of people are going to want to do it.”

In defense of Staten Island, there are some underrated reasons to get off the ferry, even though Big Ang’s famous bar, The Drunken Monkey, has closed, and plans to build a NASCAR racetrack there were a flop. There’s a waterfront minor league baseball stadium with gorgeous views of the city, the National Lighthouse Museum, if you like lighthouses, and a pretty cool Tibetan Art Museum. But these don’t draw the 4+ million visitors per year that the Ferris wheel is expected to attract.

The wheel will cost $500 million to build, one-third of which has been raised by 300 Chinese families that invested in hopes of being rewarded with visas through a program run by the federal immigration service. The wheel will accommodate up to 1,440 people per ride, welcoming as many as 30,000 visitors per day. Tourism officials are bullishly promoting the attraction already, along with the new Whitney Museum of American Art and the observatory atop One World Trade Center. It will be visible from across New York Harbor, a new neighbor for the Statue of Liberty.

[via The New York Times]

Follow Carey Dunne on Twitter @CareyDunne





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