It’s the story that goes round and round: After the 630-foot-tall New York Wheel was called off in October 2018 after costs ballooned to $1 billion, it looked like Staten Island wouldn’t be getting a record-setting Ferris wheel on its shore after all. Now, Advance/SILive.com has learned that New York Wheel investors are reportedly looking to bring a smaller version of the project to the same St. George neighborhood.
The saga of the New York Wheel is complicated, to say the least. The project officially received City Council approval in 2013 and began construction in 2015 under the purview of S9 Architecture when it was still a part of Perkins Eastman. However, the idea had been kicking around as far back as 2008, when developer Meir Laufer reportedly rode the London Eye and decided he wanted to use a similar project to revitalize the Staten Island waterfront, hiring engineering firm Mammoet-Starneth LLC to design and manufacture the wheel.
Unfortunately, Laufer’s dreams never came to pass. In 2018, with costs rising, developer New York Wheel LLC called the project off after failing to receive the necessary $140 million in tax-exempt city bonds (although trouble stretched further back than that; in 2017, Mammoet-Starneth reportedly walked off the job and were fired.) With much of the foundational work already in place, and with the surrounding development across the 8-acre site still ongoing, New York Wheel LLC was forced to auction off the already-manufactured components of the wheel in January 2019. However, the developer is still paying rent and maintaining security on the city-owned lot.
Now it looks like the team is taking another crack at the proposal, as Advance/SILive.com has reported that the group of investors behind the New York Wheel are looking to raise something smaller at the same site. Staten Island Borough President James Oddo reportedly confirmed to Advance/SILive.com that the investors are now looking to build a New York Wheel about the size of the London Eye, which is only 443-feet-tall (a sizeable downgrade but still significant for Staten Island).
“A group of Wheel investors is trying to make a bona fide effort to build their own version of the Wheel,” Oddo told Advance/SILive.com. “It would be a wheel closer in size and scope to the London Eye. They have been working to find a contractor and a funding scheme to make this work.”
With much of the infrastructure already partially in place—including a half-built parking garage, four wheel pedestals, and the carcass of a new terminal entrance—it seems like the new New York Wheel would have an advantageous start. Indeed, Oddo is reportedly directing investors to contact the New York City Economic Development Corporation, who oversees the site, and is bullish on the tourism prospects such a wheel could bring.
Of course, it’s important to remember that amid an ongoing global pandemic with no end in sight that’s decimated the tourism industry and a global recession, any near-term attempt to revive the New York Wheel would likely face an uphill battle.