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New York Wheel Gets Backing from Staten Island Community Board

By Nicholas Rizzi | June 4, 2013 10:41am
 Developers for the New York Wheel and the Empire Outlets spoke at the Community Board 1 Land Use Committee meeting about their projects. The board voted in favor of their application.
New York Wheel Community Board Vote
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ST. GEORGE — The New York Wheel is a step closer to spinning on Staten Island's waterfront.

The world's tallest Ferris wheel and the city's only outlet mall, planned for St. George, were backed unanimously by Community Board 1's Land Use committee at a Monday night meeting.

The board agreed to the zoning changes required for both projects.

Before the vote, the developers told the standing-room-only crowd at Brighton Heights Reformed Church about changes to the project made during an environmental study. They included LED lighting on the wheel that will now only face out into the harbor.

"Our objective here is to have the wheel generate business activity for New York City, for St. George and for all of Staten Island," said Rich Marin, CEO of the New York Wheel.

Many residents in the crowd echoed the board's support of the project, but also had concerns about parts of the projects.

Members of the building trade union urged Don Capoccia of BFC Partners, the developers of the Empire Outlets, to use union builders.

"It's not enough to create a job, it has to be a good job," said Robert Holst, a union worker from Mariner's Harbor. "I can't go to this wonderful wheel with my family and spend a day there when no one's going to pay me a salary to do so."

Holst, like many in the audience, stressed that they wanted the jobs to mainly go to local Staten Island union workers.

Capoccia said his company has met twice with the president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York and would look to bring on union work for Empire Outlets, formerly known as Harbor Commons.

"We're happy to accommodate and we're looking to find a sustainable, substantive role for them in this project," he said.

Marin has already committed to using union work for the construction of the wheel.

Aside from labor, a major worry for many in the audience was traffic added by site visitors.

While the project's Draft Environmental Impact Statement calls for changes in traffic directions in several nearby streets to help mitigate the increase, some in the audience didn't feel that was enough.

Lynn Kelly, CEO of Snug Harbor Cultural Center, said she was in favor of the project — which she hopes will increase the number of visitors to Snug Harbor — but felt the plans would still leave many intersections at a "D" grade.

"We all know what D is, that's one level above F, and that's not acceptable," Kelly said. "I ask that the city takes a hard look at mitigating those impacts, and those intersections that have that level of service."

Others asked the city to put money made from the project into improvements in the borough.

Theo Dorian, president of the St. George Civic Association, said the city should use the funds for increased service of the Staten Island Ferry, something borough council members have fought for recently, and to restore the North Shore Railroad.

The board suggested a dozen ways the city could use revenue gained by the wheel to help the borough, including the railroad, a greenway and better traffic conditions for Richmond Terrace.

The vote on Monday night was the first in the long process of the wheel and mall's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, the city's public review process for land use. The application will go for a vote in front of the full Community Board 1 on June 11. 

The application will then go to the borough president, the city Planning Commission and the City Council for its final approval.