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World's Tallest Ferris Wheel to be Built on Staten Island

By Jill Colvin | September 27, 2012 9:01am | Updated on September 27, 2012 2:43pm

STATEN ISLAND — The world's tallest Ferris wheel will be built on Staten Island, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Thursday. 

The giant $230 million "New York Wheel" will rival the United Kingdom's iconic London Eye, offering dramatic views across the water to Manhattan, Bloomberg said.

The observation wheel will rise 625 feet — eclipsing the Eye, at 443 feet tall, as well as the Singapore Flyer, which now holds the world record at 541 feet. The wheel will be built in what is now a city-owned parking lot near the Staten Island Ferry terminal, next to the Richmond County Bank Ballpark.

In addition, the city announced plans for a massive new retail and hotel complex, which will rise next to the wheel. The complex will include restaurants, cafes and a nearly half-million-square-foot "Harbor Commons" outlet mall, eliminating the need to trek out to Woodbury Commons for deals, officials said.

The famous London Eye Ferris wheel, which sits on the bank of the Thames overlooking the Houses of Parliament, features large, enclosed glass pods that can hold up to 25 passengers who can opt for luxury wine or champagne tasting sessions while taking in the views.

The New York version will feature 36 capsules, which will be able to carry 40 passengers each on a 38-minute ride. The city anticipates as many 30,000 riders a day, and 4.5 million a year.

“It will offer them unparalleled New York experiences and more than half an hour of breathtaking views of the city from a totally unique vantage point,” Bloomberg said at a press conference Thursday, noting:“This is a very big wheel!”

The plans are part of a larger effort to bring new attractions to the oft-overlooked, suburban-feeling borough of Staten Island to encourage tourists riding the Staten Island Ferry to actually leave the terminal instead of turning right around and boarding a ship back to Lower Manhattan.

Nearly 2 million tourists ride the ferry a year — making it the city's third most popular destination — but few venture outside of the terminal, according to a report by the Center for the Urban Future in 2007.

"Unfortunately, a lot of those tourists disembark, take a U-turn and head back to Manhattan, and they are missing out on all the things that Staten Island has to offer,” Bloomberg said. “With this announcement today, that is going to change.”

Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro said the project represents the single largest private investment ever in the borough. He predicted it would spark a wave of development and transform Staten Island.

“In 10 years, St. George will be Battery Park West,” he said. “Thank you for bringing Staten Island to new heights."

Sen. Charles Schumer predicted the wheel would become Staten Island's "Eiffel Tower" and said its image would soon grace postcards and refrigerators.

“It will completely transform the look of the waterfront," he said.

Construction is expected to begin early next year, with the wheel starting to turn by New Year’s Eve 2015. The retail portion is set to open in 2016.