Before I begin, I just want to say that this blog is primarily about my book, my writing journey, vampires and other paranormal creatures, and entertainment related to the urban fantasy genre. However, there will be times when I discuss issues related to my novel, such as abusive relationships and Staten Island, the primary setting of my first book, The Dark Proposal.
Staten Island is in the local news these days – shocking, because even though it is the fifth borough of the great New York City, it is overlooked a great deal as if it doesn’t exist. I know many would argue that it really doesn’t, but that’s another bog posting.
Anyway, the city announced Thursday that it will build a 625 foot Ferris Wheel – said to be the world’s largest – not too far from the ferry terminal in St. George. The purpose is to attract tourists to Staten Island and the project will cost $230 million.
Now, I’m not usually a cynical person, but I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when I read about this.
First off, I really fail to see how this ride will encourage tourists to see Staten Island. Sure, they’ll travel across the New York Harbor on the ferry, ride the Ferris Wheel and then hop back on the ferry to return to Manhattan. In other words, they will only spend two hours the most in an area less than a square mile in size. There aren’t much other tourist attractions in that spot, save for the small Staten Island Museum and the St. George theater, which can have great productions at certain times of the day. There are a few good restaurants to dine at. But other than that, tourists will not get the whole scope of the borough, and it will remain a mystery to so many.
Which is why I think the $230 million should not have gone to this massive ride – which I predict will be an eye sore – but instead, should have gone to creating a much better transportation system on the Island. Right now, we have a single railroad line on the east side, and about two dozen city buses which can take you anywhere if you are willing to deal with constant stops and crowded spaces for a long period of time. If the city genuinely wants to showcase Staten Island, they ought to focus on making transportation easier so tourists will want to see this place.
After all, some of the Island’s noted locations are out of the way. Snug Harbor may be the closest, but you still need to take a city bus over if you want to see any theatrical productions it puts on. The Alice Austen House is near the Verrazano Bridge, and this museum tells the story of the famed photographer who was ahead of her time in so many ways. Most especially, Staten Island has New York’s only living museum complex, Historic Richmondtown, which has about a dozen authentic buildings from the colonial era, plus volunteers dressed in costume and pretending to be shopkeepers, farmers, and so. Unfortunately, it must take 45 minutes by city bus to go there. I have seen tourists from all over the world take the long commute, but I’m sure many more will come if the transportation on the Island were a lot better.
Before the Great Recession, there were talks about improving the Island’s transportation by having a North Shore Railroad, a ferry to either New Jersey or Brooklyn (I’m not so sure) and other ideas were in mind. Those plans were shelved when all hell broke lose financially in this country, but it seems the city has money again.
And its all going to a silly Ferris Wheel.
Come on, what good does a Ferris Wheel do to a place so often overlooked and scorned by anyone from the outer boroughs? How will it help put Staten Island on the map and educate tourists about the Forgotten Borough? Even if thousands ride this thing everyday three years from now (it is expected the wheel will be ready by then), are they really going to want to see more and get to know more about this place? As I mentioned before, I really doubt it.
We Staten Islanders know we are not as glamorous or exciting or diverse as the rest of the city, but its not like we want to run and hide. I’m sure plenty of us would like to let the world know that we exist, and this ride does not help. We are an isolated island despite having a ferry system, four bridges and being part of one of the greatest cities in the whole world. This Ferris Wheel will not help end our isolation.