Construction of huge Ferris wheel on Staten Island stalls

- In 2012, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg first announced plans to erect a 630-foot Ferris wheel on Staten Island. At that initial news conference, the New York Wheel CEO estimated the development's cost at $230 million. That total has since ballooned to nearly $600 million.

The New York Wheel planned and still plans to join the Staten Island Yankees and a new outlet mall to create a hub for the millions of tourists who ride the Staten Island Ferry every year to spend their dollars before returning to Manhattan.

Over the summer, New York Wheel fired contractor Mammoet-Starneth, which declined to comment for this story.

"Basically they were unable to meet key design and construction deadlines," said Anne Champion, a partner at the law firm Gibson and Dunn, which represents New York Wheel in its lawsuit against Mammoet-Starneth.

"I think it's going to be a huge attraction," Champion said. She added that following a judge's order, both parties are now working to transition the project to a new contractor — American Bridge, which also holds the contract for the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement.

"These projects are very complicated and the bigger you go — this is going to be the tallest in the Western Hemisphere — the more expensive they get," said Joe Anuta, a senior reporter at Crain's. "That part of Staten Island has wanted a something for a while. There are these big tracts of unused land."

The at least $400 million already spent by the wheel went toward a new parking garage and terminal building for the Staten Island Ferry and an undisclosed amount of the wheel itself.

Champion said she could not estimate the cost to complete fabrication and construction of the wheel until New York Wheel officially signed its contract with American Bridge.

"It's unclear to me how much more they'll need at this point," Anuta said.

Champion said, "There's really no concern in terms of financing the project."

The New York Wheel plans to join similar attractions like the Seattle Great Wheel and the London Eye but faces the challenge of creating a new tourist destination instead of capitalizing on visitors from an existing attraction.

"It's a very strange, very risky project. It's very much up-in-the-air right now," Anuta said. "But there are plenty of people who are very confident it's going to get done."

"We are fully committed to this project," Champion said.

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