Ferris Wheel and Staten Island Revitalization Project Approved

Conceptual rendering of view of the New York Wheel and New York Harbor. Image Credit: NYCEDC.

Conceptual rendering of view of the New York Wheel and New York Harbor. Image Credit: NYCEDC.

Council gives go ahead for world’s largest Ferris wheel and outlet complex.  On October 30, 2013, City Council unanimously voted 45-0 to approve the construction of the largest Ferris Wheel in the western hemisphere, which along with other developments, is intended to transform Staten Island’s St. George Waterfront. The New York Wheel (the Wheel), designed and manufactured by Starneth, will be built just north of the Richmond County Bank Ballpark, and will provide panoramic views of New York Harbor and New York City. The Wheel will be 625-feet tall with a maximum capacity of 1,440 riders, and is projected to attract approximately 4.5 million visitors per year. The project will also include the development of a 95,000 gross sq. ft. Wheel Terminal building and a 340,000 sq. ft. retail complex, Empire Outlets.

The Wheel Terminal Building will have retail, restaurants, a 4-D theater, and an exhibition space featuring New York City history, alternative energy, and environmental sustainability. The development will include 950 public and accessory parking spaces and twelve bus spaces. The Terminal Building will incorporate a publicly accessible green roof and open space beginning at Richmond Terrace and spanning the parking structure and Terminal Building beneath it. The Wheel project will entail an investment of approximately $250 million to complete the project and will create approximately 419 construction jobs and 426 permanent jobs.Description: https://www.citylandnyc.org/wp-includes/js/tinymce/plugins/wordpress/img/trans.gif

Empire Outlets plans to house approximately 125 designer outlet stores, restaurants and cafes; a 200-room, 130,000 sq. ft. hotel; and a 15,000 sq. ft. banquet facility. The development will also include a 1,250-space parking garage below the retail and hotel complexes for commuters and tourists. Designed by SHoP Architects, Empire Outlets will feature expansive open corridors to the water, contemporary materials reflective of the industrial waterfront, and a sweeping sustainable green roof visible from the harbor.

The projects will be located adjacent to the Richmond County Bank Ballpark, the home of the Staten Island Yankees minor league baseball team, and the Staten Island Ferry St. George Terminal. The development sites are currently used as surface public parking for the ferry terminal and the ballpark. The applicants, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), New York Wheel LLC, and St. George Outlet Development LLC, applied for tax lot subdivisions, adoption of a text amendment modifying the Special St. George District to add a new North Waterfront Subdistrict that will include the project sites within its boundaries, a zoning map amendment to reflect the extension of the Special St. George District, and special permits to establish development requirements in the new subdistrict and modify previous special permits issued for the ballpark.

The City Council Land Use Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises held a public hearing on October 2, 2013.  Testifying on behalf of the applicants were Eugene Lee, Senior Policy Advisor to the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development; Kyle Kimball, President of NYCEDC; Shelly Friedman, land use counsel for New York Wheel LLC; and Don Capoccia, managing principal of the BFC Partners. Eugene Lee testified, “This plan will revitalize Staten Island’s north shore, making it a top tourist destination and creating a more vibrant neighborhood for residents, visitors, and businesses.” Lee continued that the plan will unlock the “potential of some of the City’s most visible underutilized waterfront property” by “leveraging access to the ferry terminal, a key transit hub for Staten Islanders and visitors alike.”

Local Council Member Deborah Rose stated that she has worked to ensure that the borough benefits from this project, and not wither “in its shadow.” Council Member Rose, Council Member Vincent Ignizio, and Staten Island Borough President-elect James S. Oddo, asked multiple questions with regard to the City’s investment and return from this project, job creation and training, local hiring initiatives, and ferry and traffic congestion and mitigation. Council Member Domenic M. Recchia urged the applicants to find a way to create a mile-long esplanade that would connect all of the attractions along the waterfront and thus encourage visitors attracted to the Wheel to “stay and walk the whole promenade” and experience with the north shore of Staten Island has to offer.

Local residents who opposed the development project during the October 2nd public hearing cited traffic congestion, lack of public access and view of the waterfront, ferry wait times, job creation, hiring standards, and local resident needs. Paul Fernandez, Chief of Staff of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York testified in opposition to the Empire Outlets project, stating that employment opportunities with good wages and health and retirement benefits have been offered for only 15 percent of the project. He objected to the job training, which is being offered under a “relatively new and untested program” that “does not have a curriculum capable of providing the level of training to give individuals the skills needed to complete long term employment and upward mobility.” Other residents and local community organizations expressed support for the development, stating that the project would benefit local businesses, create jobs, and revitalize the North Shore area of Staten Island.

Staten Island Community Board 1 voted to approve the project 25-1 in June 2013 on the condition that the applicants promise to create good jobs with real career paths for local residents who represent the diversity of the community. The board also requested that project sponsors support local businesses, including minority and women owned businesses, and make comprehensive efforts to address traffic, transportation and infrastructure improvements to protect against rising sea levels and future storms.

On October 30, 2013, the Council’s Subcommittee voted 9-0 to approve the project, and the Land Use Committee voted 16-0 to approve the project later that day. Council Member Rose gave a statement in support of the project in which she listed items that had been agreed to during Council consideration. These included an allocation of $1 million for a traffic mitigation fund; assignment of $700,000  towards a planning study for the replacement of Cromwell Recreation Center; maintenance of commuter parking levels throughout the construction of the project; caps to parking rates; 100 percent union hiring for the Wheel and outlet mall; generation of 1,150 construction jobs and 1,350 permanent jobs, mostly for Staten Islanders; dedication of $500,000 for capacity building for Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprise contractors; dedication of $2 million for repairs to Richmond Terrace Esplanade and aesthetic upgrades; and allocation of $35 million from the City capital fund for new ferries. She stated that the commitments from developers, NYCEDC, and the City were worth over $51 million in addition to the $480 million in private investment already being made for the entire project.

Construction of the development projects is expected to begin in early 2014 and is projected to be completed in 2016.

City Council: St. George Waterfront Revitalization Project (N 130316 ZRR – Zoning text amendment) (C 130319PPR – Disposition of City-owned property); (C 130320 PPR – Disposition of City-owned Property); (C 130317 ZSR – Special permit); (C 130318 ZSR – Special permit)(October 30, 2013).


 By: Jennifer Baek (Jennifer is a CityLaw Fellow and New York Law School Graduate- Class of 2013)



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