Absurd New York #145: Ferris Wheel Edition

"Absurd New York #145: Ferris Wheel Edition." Photo by Rick Stachura. August 26, 2021.




Looks like old Mayor Bloomberg finally got his Wheel. And it’s blocking a bike lane (of course!). 




In 2013, then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg announced that the world’s biggest ferris wheel would be built on a city-owned plot in St. George, Staten Island. It was to rise 630 feet high and hold up to 1,700 passengers at a time. A privately funded affair, the price tag was pegged at $250 million. When ready in 2015, the “New York Wheel” would cost thrill-seekers $35 to ride. 

But its budget kept soaring, and the EB-5 Visa program attached to its funding proved controversial. At one point, the New York Times revealed that 412 foreign nationals invested $500,000 each in the project to secure Green Cards to live here. But their $206 million contribution wasn’t enough. The New York Wheel was becoming a near-billion dollar endeavor. Mommoet-Starneth, the Wheel’s design-construction team, and the Feil Group, its main investor, walked off the job in 2017. Starneth even filed for bankruptcy, and began auctioning off pre-fabricated parts of the thing to cover its losses. A-Fram braces, capsule parts, and even the Wheel’s stabilizing legs went up for bids in 2019.

In response, the Wheel’s development team fired Starneth and began looking for a new contractor. But they needed help. Appealing to the City for funds, the team suggested non-taxable bonds. But New York City Economic Development Corporation refused, and Mayor Bill de Blasio supported its decision saying the Wheel was no longer “economically viable.” Besides, it’s a “private sector endeavor.” If the developers don’t “get their act together,” he told the Staten Island Advance, the city-owned site should “house something else” instead. 

So the team got to work. In early 2021, CanAm Enterprises, the group that recruited those foreign investors, reported that the Wheel was scaling down. In an effort to make it more “viable,” the height was dropped to 420 feet and the price of admission shorn to $28. As the Advance first learned, CanAm suggested the “new” Wheel could debut as soon as 2025. The developers now anticipate anywhere from 1.2 to 1.8 million visitors a year. But until then —  if then, maybe then! — the “Times Square Wheel” will have to satisfy Bloomberg’s dream. (Sorry about your bike lane, de Blasio.)



Photo by Rick Stachura. Times Square Wheel. August 26, 2021.

Looking south on Broadway from West 48th Street. 



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