A 191-meter-high Ferris wheel with 36 pods, each big enough to hold 40 gawking tourists, is to be built on New York's Staten Island, the New York City government announced today.
Ahhh. At long last, we New Yorkers have a mega-engineering project of our own.
It's been a long time since big things were built for the sake of bigness here, or anywhere else in the United States. Other countries, particularly in Asia, still have that soaring ambition, as this list of the tallest skyscrapers shows. But Ferris wheels are even more fun: Singapore is home to the tallest wheel, the 165-meter Singapore Flyer. Beijing was to have had a 208-meter wheel by 2008, but the finances went sour, and the project was shelved in 2010.
New York's wheel would provide not only a great ride but also a chance to see the Manhattan skyline —one more reason, besides the free Staten Island Ferry (which the wheel will abut), to visit the least-toured borough in the city. Construction is supposed to start in 2014 and end the following year. First, though, the project has to get through the city’s byzantine system for land-use approval.
New York Wheel LLC, the investing group behind the project, says it expects to spend US$250 million on the wheel and accompanying buildings. The contractor, Netherlands-based Starneth, built the 135-meter London Eye in 2000. A hydraulic system driven by electric pumps turns that wheel in 30 minutes; a ride on the New York Wheel is expected to take 38 minutes.
One of the main technical challenges to these things is just getting the parts of the structure into place. Starneth built the London Eye by barging in sections on the Thames, assembling them flat against the ground, and then using a jack system to elevate the 1,200-metric-ton wheel over the course of a day.
Philip E. Ross is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. His interests include transportation, energy storage, AI, and the economic aspects of technology. He has a master's degree in international affairs from Columbia University and another, in journalism, from the University of Michigan.