Getting to the Wheel

 

Image 2-NY_Wheel

To begin with, the Harbor is being activated in every imaginable direction.  The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island have been repaired and refreshed since Superstorm Sandy.  Governor’s Island has a wonderful new park in construction on its southern end that promises to be a major attraction.  The South Street Seaport is being rebuilt and revitalized.  The 9/11 Memorial and the full spate of surrounding buildings including the 1WTC Observation Deck, the Memorial Museum and the Transit Center will be in full swing soon.  Pier A has been beautifully renovated and ready to operate.  And of course, the St. George Waterfront with its giant observation wheel, its Empire Outlets Mall (the first outlet mall in NYC), the Staten Island Yankees stadium and Lighthouse Point will be the southern anchor to a vibrant and fully activated harbor.

The secret to success of this activation will be in giving visitors (whether they are tourists or residents) easy water access.  To do this, the New York Wheel, in conjunction with its marketing partner, Empire Outlets, has organized agreements with most of the major private waterborne transit providers to bring visitors to the site via a private ferry dock that is being offered for construction through an RFEI process by NYC Economic Development Corporation.  This dock, to be located between Empire Outlets and the Wheel, will allow visitors from the East and West sides of Manhattan as well as an array of sites in New Jersey, Brooklyn and Southern Manhattan to access the site via regularly scheduled ferry service.  This is of course intended to supplement and enhance the service already offered by the beloved Staten Island Ferry, which runs 24X7.

The New York Wheel is committed to making the St. George waterfront a major destination on the harbor and thereby give tourists and residents alike a new and exciting place to enjoy the fullness of New York City life on a year-round basis.

New York Wheel and Empire Outlets Certified

On Monday, May 20th, 2013 the New ark Wheel and its conjoined neighbor, Empire Outlets Mall were certified into ULURP by the Chairman of the Department of City Planning and the City PlanningCommission, the Honorable Amanda Burden.    This was a major milestone for these projects as it indicates that the major agencies of the City and a few of the state have all reviewed the project and feel it is ready for the formal ULURP approval process.

Now we move into a 6-7 month prescribed schedule of approvals that take place in this order:

  1. Community Board #1.
    June 3 – Land Use Committee Recommendation.
    June 11 – Full Board Vote
  2. Borough President’s Approval – 30 days max.
  3. City Planning Commission Approval – 60 days max.
  4. City Council Approval – 50 days max.
  5. Mayor’s Approval – 5 days max.

New York Harbor

The New York Wheel is situated in the perfect vantage spot to see and participate in one of the largest natural harbors in the world and certainly the most storied since its “discovery” in 1524 by Giovanni da Verrazzano, the Italian adventurer who’s name graces the bridge that spans the narrows at the mouth of the harbor.

Untitled1

What a portend that Verrazzano used Staten Island as his first regional watering hole since our wheel and the other projects like Empire  Outlets, Lighthouse Point and Homeport are reshaping the north shore of Staten Island into the true Gateway to New York and America.

The Verrazano Bridge was built in 1964 and is still the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere, with a central span 18 meters longer than the iconic Golden Gate.  Nowhere will the views be better of this landmark than from the 630 foot perch atop the wheel.

Untitled2

Of course, the most famous inhabitant of the harbor is Lady Liberty with her immigrant-processing neighbor of Ellis Island.  With the recent decision to move and expand the security checkpoint from Battery Park to Ellis Island, we will see a significant expansion of the capacity of the harbor waterborne transit for all harbor visitors.

Untitled3

In many ways, the New York Wheel is a big part of what we believe will be the next great chapter in the development of New York’s magnificent waterfront…..the making of New York Harbor into the next great tourist attraction of New York with 12 million heading upwards to 20 million visitors per year.

Untitled4

 

 

The Great New York Chili Cookoff

Today I am participating in the Staten Island community by acting as a judge at the New York City Chili Cookoff at Historic Richmond Town in the middle of Staten Island.

Untitled5

My son Thomas and I are sitting here in the Courthouse in this restored 300 year old village that is one of the many wonderful sights on the island for visitors to enjoy.  We are about to judge 12 red and 12 green chilies.  This event is 46 years old and the winners go on to the national finals in Palm Springs in October.

20130427_124625

If you ask me what this has to do with the New York Wheel, it’s that the entire redevelopment of the north shore should be of benefit to ALL of Staten Island and its undiscovered attractions.  I now get asked to events like this chili cookoff because of the wheel and its growing notoriety.  It seems only appropriate that I should use these occasions to herald the other pleasant spots on Staten Island like Historic Richmond Town.

 Untitled6

Now we have to go home and take some much needed Alka Seltzer…..

The Playground

At one of the first community meetings I attended , a Staten Island woman approached me.  Her name was Frizzi Linck and she is a voice pathologist and a resident of St. George.  She was all swaddled up with a baby on her chest.  She had a simple request; could our open space green roof include a playground for both local children like hers and possibly for visitors with small children.  I said we would look into it.  I’m sure she thought it was a standard non-committal response.

As I have previously explained in this blog, we have over 5 acres of planned open space on our green roof, with undulating hills and paths winding amongst the sustainability exhibit and its alternative energy generators (photovoltaic solar cells and vertical wind turbines).  There was one portion of the roof plan, the Western-most portion near Nicholas Street which seemed lonely and underutilized.

So much to everyone’s surprise, we said yes, we would include a playground.  When I next saw Frizzi, it was at a Community Board meeting and during the Q&A she asked again about the playground.  This time I told her we had one planned based on her request.  I’m not sure she believed me.  Such is the inherent distrust for the developer in modern American society.  While I’m sure it is a reputation that is well-earned, we consider ourselves less developers and more wheel builders.  That may sound trite, but this is the only project we have underway and we are totally focused on doing it the right way to create a world-class venue that emphasizes the visual history of New York Harbor, the high tech world we all live in and the importance of sustainability in our future.

Building a playground is a relatively small thing to do for a community where we plan to live for the next 99 years.  It will add to the visual beauty of our site looked at both from Richmond Terrace and from 625 feet in the air.  We want our visitors to stay on our site for several hours after riding the wheel.  We are including various elements to make that stay worthwhile, interesting and fun.

Frizzi and St. George, I would love you to think that I decided to build the playground for you, but the truth is that it was simply the right thing to do for the site.  Thank you for the idea.  We have had our landscape architects, M. Paul Friedberg & Partners, do a preliminary design showed below:

playground

At one of the first community meetings I attended , a Staten Island woman approached me.  Her name was Frizzi Linck and she is a voice pathologist and a resident of St. George.  She was all swaddled up with a baby on her chest.  She had a simple request; could our open space green roof include a playground for both local children like hers and possibly for visitors with small children.  I said we would look into it.  I’m sure she thought it was a standard non-committal response.

As I have previously explained in this blog, we have over 5 acres of planned open space on our green roof, with undulating hills and paths winding amongst the sustainability exhibit and its alternative energy generators (photovoltaic solar cells and vertical wind turbines).  There was one portion of the roof plan, the Western-most portion near Nicholas Street which seemed lonely and underutilized.

So much to everyone’s surprise, we said yes, we would include a playground.  When I next saw Frizzi, it was at a Community Board meeting and during the Q&A she asked again about the playground.  This time I told her we had one planned based on her request.  I’m not sure she believed me.  Such is the inherent distrust for the developer in modern American society.  While I’m sure it is a reputation that is well-earned, we consider ourselves less developers and more wheel builders.  That may sound trite, but this is the only project we have underway and we are totally focused on doing it the right way to create a world-class venue that emphasizes the visual history of New York Harbor, the high tech world we all live in and the importance of sustainability in our future.

Building a playground is a relatively small thing to do for a community where we plan to live for the next 99 years.  It will add to the visual beauty of our site looked at both from Richmond Terrace and from 625 feet in the air.  We want our visitors to stay on our site for several hours after riding the wheel.  We are including various elements to make that stay worthwhile, interesting and fun.

Frizzi and St. George, I would love you to think that I decided to build the playground for you, but the truth is that it was simply the right thing to do for the site.  Thank you for the idea.  We have had our landscape architects, M. Paul Friedberg & Partners, do a preliminary design showed below:

Icon or Eye-Can?

At the nearby World Financial Center in an area reserved for art expositions, Art Brookfield has sponsored the 20th Annual Design/Build Competition and Food Drive in support of City Harvest.  At that exhibit of what they call Canstruction, the firm of Ch2M Hill Yolles chose to “keep an Eye on hunger” by building their rendition of The Staten Island Eye:

Icon or Eye-can?

The Great Wheel Plaza & Hall

The main entry of the Wheel will be on Bank Street facing the waterfront.  This entry plaza will be directly across from and positioned to honor, but not interfere with the Postcard 9/11 Memorial and Plaza.

Untitled4

It will be a grand plaza with the enormous wheel turning slowly above and a waterfall and bosque of trees with seating and a cafe.

Inside the terminal entry will be a Great Wheel Hall with 60 foot height and a sloping glass wall highlighting the wheel above.  That Hall will provide visitors with an arrival space including coat check, rest rooms and ticket kiosk.  It will also house the entry to the 4D Theater (explained in a future blog) and 16,000 sf of exposition space dedicated to our Sustainability Expo and an area or local artists to exhibit.  To the left will be a grand staircase up to the main floor that will be reminiscent of other grand stairs like The Spanish Steps in Rome except this one will be both indoor and outdoor, separated by a glass wall and connecting the interior with the exterior.

 Untitled3

This will be a magnificent plaza and even more magnificent Great Wheel Hall that will connect the wheel with the harbor and its surrounding.