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Eye on Staten Island: world's biggest Ferris wheel coming in 2015

New York City officials envision the Ferris wheel doing for Staten Island what the London Eye did for the south bank of the Thames – making it a top tourist destination with great views.

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Once ferry riders leave the terminal, officials are hoping they also stop at a planned retail outlet mall, Harbor Commons, the first such facility in the city. They hope to entice what they term “suitcase tourists,” who currently buy a suitcase and then take a bus or rent a car to go to Woodbury Commons, an outlet mall about an hour north of the city.

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For a long time, the residents of Staten Island felt removed from New York. There have been rumblings about seceding since many residents feel the Democrat-controlled city institutions ignore Republican Staten Island.

At the press conference, borough president James Molinaro recounted that Mr. Bloomberg was reelected for his third term because he received so many votes on the island. “He didn’t forget,” said Mr. Molinaro.

The island also has a different social and cultural makeup – more similar to suburbia than a crowded borough. Although Staten Island has only 5 percent of the city’s population, it has 18 percent of its automobile registrations. Under Republican Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the fare to take the Staten Island ferry was eliminated so residents would not have to pay two fares if they took the bus to the ferry.

There have been other plans to revitalize the St. George area in the past. On the ferry ride to the press conference, Bloomberg recalled that one of his former economic development czars had proposed building a tram that would go from lower Manhattan to Staten Island and then Red Hook in Brooklyn. “A brilliant idea,” he told reporters. It never got built.

Visitors to the Ferris wheel will also be able to visit a memorial to the 257 Staten Island residents who were killed on 9/11. Bloomberg said the large number of Staten Island residents who died was emblematic of the island as a bedroom community for municipal workers.

However, the island itself has changed over the years. In the past, the population was mostly Caucasian. Today, notes Bloomberg, it is far more diverse with a large Sri Lankan population as well as several mosques.

Officials envision many New Yorkers being attracted to the Ferris wheel. In London, each Londoner has visited the Eye an average of four times during the past decade, says Richard Marin, the president and chief executive officer of New York Wheel, the developer. “We think the residents of New York will consider this a major attraction in and of itself.”

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