STATEN ISLAND — A St. George gallery owner wants to make sure Staten Island's Ferris wheel has a space for artists.
Gary Brant, who owns Galerie St. George at 11 Phelps Place, wants to put an art gallery in the outlet mall that will stand in the huge wheel's shadow. It would show work from local and international artists, he said.
"We want to have some culture amongst the outlet stores and all the commercial aspects of the developments," Brant said. "We want to have a venue that shows off our local [culture] and our local artists."
The plans for the New York Wheel include a nearly half-million-square-foot "Harbor Commons" outlet mall, developed by BFC Partners.
When Brant, who moved to St. George from San Francisco in 1982, heard the plans, he thought it would be a perfect spot to showcase local art to the rest of the country.
In recent years, Brant said the art community in the neighborhood has grown, but there are few options for them to show their work.
"There aren't venues for them to exhibit their work locally," he said. "We need this focal point of a gallery, that's also a public space."
Brant said he thinks his planned gallery would expose local artwork to a large number of tourists visiting the Ferris wheel and mall.
"This is going to be a huge tourist attraction," he said. "For the first time since I've lived here, there's going to actually be traffic.
"At long last were going to actually have some bodies that we could put into the galleries."
Brant presented his idea at a recent Community Board 1 meeting and is in the process of developing it further.
While the board could not officially back the project without a full proposal, members said the idea of public art in the mall was attractive.
"The concept sounds like a really great one," said Leticia Remauro, chairwoman of Community Board 1.
Brant also said a space for public art would help convince residents of the benefits of the large-scale development plan. Some oppose the Ferris wheel because it's too large and will block waterfront views.
"They're upset because they don't want it to be such a dramatic thing that's springing up there," he said. "The benefits are going to far outweigh the concerns about size and how it's going to look."
And while the idea of giving up space in the outlet mall to public art might seem strange to the developers, Brant said the space they're asking for would be "small and modest." Initial plans for the gallery would be a 20-by-30-foot room, Brant said.
"We're not Saks Fifth Avenue. We're not coming to them with deep pockets," he said.
"We're just asking that part of the space where you're making all these millions [of dollars] is hopefully set aside so that public art can be shown and increase the culture in the neighborhood."
Brant said he already wrote letters to political leaders to support the plan, and will submit the proposal to the community board sometime this week.
After it's submitted and if the board supports it, Brant will then present it to the developers.
"A dialogue has to get started on this topic," he said.
"This is not something the developer is putting out, I'm coming up with this idea."