Developers of a gigantic 630-foot observation wheel on Staten Island's North Shore have pulled the plug on the troubled project.
"I thought it was a good thing for Staten Island, and the fact that it is not happening, I think, is not something to rejoice," Staten Island Borough President James Oddo said.
The development was killed after officials with New York Wheel LLC met with the city's Economic Development Corporation on Tuesday in a last-ditch effort to find a way forward. When the city once again declined to provide any financial assistance, the developers decided to scrap the project.
The development was announced with much fanfare by Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration six years ago, in the hope of creating a major tourist destination and source of jobs in the city's least populous borough. But after $400 million was spent, the only signs of progress at the site are four huge wheel pedestals anchored into the ground.
The massive parts for the wheel, now stored in Brooklyn, will now be auctioned off at the end of the month.
The project had been in doubt ever since the contractor walked out last year over unpaid bills. The developers blamed the contractor for what it called costly delays. The two sides ended up fighting in court.
Wheel developers pressed the city for $140 million in assistance, perhaps by issuing bonds. But Mayor de Blasio's administration made it clear that there would be no bailout, telling NY1 last month that it was "clear-eyed about the risks of putting public money into an expensive, speculative project."
Developers also met with officials from the governor's office in the hopes of getting a bailout. That, too, was unsuccessful.
Sources familiar with the talks say they believe a foreign investor might buy the wheel's parts at auction, and then try to build the project themselves. It is unclear, however, who that could be or when that might occur.
In the meantime, NY Wheel developers will be forced to return the site back to its original condition, an expensive and time-consuming process, and hundreds of foreign investors will now face the loss of their investment.
But a spokesperson for a firm trying to help those investors obtain citizenship through the NY Wheel project said in a statement that the firm believes that the 412 investors have met the requirements for permanent residency in the United States.
The project was initially projected to cost $250 million, but the estimate had ballooned to $999 million, according to the Economic Development Corporation.
"You can't go from a $250 million project to a $1 billion project," Oddo said. "That sets off all kinds of alarms, and people in government are going to look with a very jaundiced eye when you miss the mark by that much."
It's not clear what, if anything, will be built at the site now.
The local city councilwoman argued the city shouldn't have denied the bailout: "It's so shortsighted of this administration to not realize that this wheel is more than just a wheel," City Councilwoman Debi Rose said. "This wheel served as our opportunity to provide for the residents of Staten Island the very things that they've asked for."
Some believe the project never caught de Blasio's interest, which, in the end was its undoing.
"When you look at the priorities of the de Blasio administration, when you look at where their capital money has gone, does this project seem consistent with that?" Oddo said. "I don't think so."