Thursday, September 27, 2012

Staten Island To See World's Largest Ferris Wheel; But What About Transit?

Staten Island will soon become home to the world's largest Ferris Wheel, when a 625 foot tall wheel will be installed adjacent to the Richmond County Ballpark (home to the Staten Island Yankees) in St. George. Accompanying the amusement ride will be new retail development, plus a hotel. The location is ideally located for tourism and visitors will be treated to stunning views of New York Bay, including the Statue of Liberty, Lower Manhattan, and the rest of the New York City metro region.
The New York Wheel is coming to Staten Island, along with a retail and hotel complex featuring designer outlet shops that will pump nearly $500 million in private investment into the St. George waterfront and spur economic development, tourism and job growth into the future.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday is set to announce that the world's tallest observation wheel and an outlet mall will be built on 14 acres next to the Richmond County Bank Ballpark at St. George, transforming the North Shore waterfront.

"Our administration has made major investments all along the North Shore of Staten Island, because we know this area is full of potential for economic growth," Bloomberg said. "But this newest plan is the most exciting of all -- it's a once-in-a-generation opportunity for economic development."

At 625 feet, the $230 million New York Wheel will exceed the height of the Singapore Flyer, currently the world's tallest observation wheel, and will also eclipse the London Eye and a "High Roller" wheel planned for the Las Vegas Strip.
The ride is also expected to exceed a wheel planned for the New Jersey Meadowlands Xanadu/American Dream project. Critics are busy blasting the plan because of a lack of transit options - and most notably a lack of parking.

The new plan would clear existing parking lots to make way for the amusement ride, and there's no clear indication of where those spots would be relocated (if at all). The lots are used by commuters who park there because of a lack of transit options to commute to Manhattan by means other than the Staten Island ferry or express buses.

Staten Island has long been a backwater when it comes to transit options, and a new MTA plan to build a park-n-ride and new station in Tottenville isn't going to solve the problems either. The new station will be ADA compliant and have intermodal links with a bus stop, but it will replace two nearby stations that will be shuttered.

Staten Islanders need more transit options, and bus rapid transit is seen as one option, but more must be done to make commuting to Manhattan and the rest of the city easier. That would include more subway access, or light rail - particularly over the Bayonne Bridge to link up with the Hudson-Bergen light rail that includes a terminus at Hoboken (with links to PATH and ferries). It's not exactly a one-seat ride, but it would better integrate Staten Island transit options with the rest of the region and reduce pressure on the already overcrowded bridges.

Sadly, the Bayonne Bridge reconstruction to permit bigger ships to pass will not include a light rail option, and the construction has been expedited to make sure the Arthur Kill channel is ready for super Panamax shipping. Transit options take a back seat to other projects.

Some local residents are complaining about the lack of transit options and increased vehicle traffic that would result from the new amusement ride, but with most visitors expecting to arrive by ferry, the impact is seen as being minimal. The problem will be what to do with those cars hoping to park near the ferry terminal for their daily commute and there's no easy answer for that.

A map of the area:

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