NYS Assembly Candidate, Anthony Mascolo's, Reservations About the Giant New York Wheel - Shopping Mall Project in the St. George Section of Staten Island

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The project puts the fare for the Staten Island ferry in jeopardy, threatens the existing and established Staten Island business community with governmental subsidized competition, shifts jobs, revenue and resources from other parts of Staten Island to a 14 acre campus in St. George instead of creating new jobs, revenue and resources, and, without further planning, keeps its prosperity bottled up within its 14 acre campus like Atlantic City instead of distributing it to the other parts of Staten Island.

VoteMascolo.com

"Having the wheel next to the ferry, which is already ridden by an estimated 2 million tourists annually, will save the developers about $100 million in transportation infrastructure costs"

On the blog of the website, http://www.voteMascolo.com, there is a record of the reservations regarding the proposed giant observation wheel - shopping mall project to be built on a 14 acre campus in the St. George section of Staten Island. Before this deal is finalized, it is important that the following issues be addressed

1)    Does this project jeopardize the fare on the Staten Island Ferry?

According to the statements of the developer and the City of New York, an estimated 4.5 million visitors will be coming to ride the observation wheel and most of them will be taking the Staten Island Ferry. The fare for a ride on the Staten Island Ferry is presently free. New York City will therefore be subsidizing the cost of transporting an extra 4.5 million people per year.

Assume that it costs one dollar to transport each person - it may be higher - that is a subsidy of 4.5 million dollars per year.

Assume that it costs five dollars to transport each person - the most accurate value can be obtained from existing studies of the Staten Island Ferry - that is a subsidy of $22.5 million dollars per year.

The NYC transportation subsidy is $445.5 million over the course of 99 years assuming a $1 dollar cost per passenger (99 x $4.5 million) or more than 2 and 1/4 billion dollars assuming a $5 dollar cost per passenger over the course of 99 years ( 99 x $22.5 million).

How much is NYC getting in rent? "Under the deal announced Thursday, New York Wheel will pay the city $1 million per year on a 99-year lease for a waterfront location within walking distance of the Staten Island Ferry terminal." NYC gets $99 million dollars over 99 years. The shopping mall on the campus of the GIANT FERRY WHEEL is reportedly paying another 1.5 million dollars in rent.

The New York City transportation subsidy is huge! How generous NYC is to these developers! The NYC transportation subsidy is orders of magnitude greater than the rent that NYC is collecting.

Moreover, the rent is fixed; over the course of 99 years the cost of transportation will go up. In other words, the New York City transportation subsidy grows over time!

The bargain that the developers of the project have received via this New York City governmental transportation subsidy was recognized by the CEO of the New York Wheel who bragged to the Associated press "Having the wheel next to the ferry, which is already ridden by an estimated 2 million tourists annually, will save the developers about $100 million in transportation infrastructure costs"

New York City cannot afford to subsidize the cost of transporting the customers of the giant observation wheel. The cost of the subsidy is so huge that free ferry transportation for Staten Islanders is being put IN JEOPARDY.

2)    Is it fair to the existing and established Staten Island business community for New York City to give free transportation to the customers of businesses on the campus of this new project?

If you ask the existing and established businesses on Staten Island the question, ‘Does New York City give your customers free transportation to your businesses?’ the answer you will get is ‘No.!’ Yet, New York City is giving the customers of all of the businesses on the campus of this project in St. George, Staten Island free transportation. Most of the customers of this new project are expected to take the Ferry whose fare is presently free. This New York City transportation subsidy distorts the economy of Staten Island favoring a new collection of businesses over the existing and established Staten Island business community. New York City ought to get a percentage of the ticket revenue for the observation wheel and a percentage of the sales from the new stores, restaurants, catering hall and hotel to pay for the transportation costs of their customers

3)     Will there be a net gain in jobs, revenues and resources or does this project merely shift jobs, revenues and resources from other parts of Staten Island to the 14 acre campus of this project in St. George, Staten Island?

New York City has upset the balance of the economy of Staten Island by putting on the campus of this project businesses that compete with existing and established Staten Island businesses. One hundred stores, restaurants, catering halls and a hotel are planned for St. George. They will compete directly with existing and established Staten Island businesses. Jobs, revenues and resources will merely shift, like a shell game, from other parts of Staten Island to a 14 acre campus in St. George. There are questions as to whether this issue was thoroughly studied.

4)    Why wasn’t this project designed by establishing businesses on the 14 acre campus that are unique and do not compete with existing and established Staten Island businesses?

When a government sticks its nose into the private sector it should add new economic activity not take away from existing and established economic activity? New York City has violated this principle with this project. The Wheel itself is unique and does not pose a competitive threat to any existing and established Staten Island business. However the hundred stores, restaurants, catering hall and hotel to be erected on the 14 acre campus pose a direct and dangerous threat to the existing and established Staten Island business community. Competition is usually good. However, this project is not private enterprise at work. This project is being facilitated and assisted by New York City transportation subsidies, New York City leases, etc. Elected officials, especially in areas not adjacent to the project ought to have stood up to protect the existing and established Staten Island business community. Instead they have let the existing and established Staten Island business community down.

If the goal is to provide entertainment to tourists, a full fledged amusement park would nicely complement the observation wheel. Imagine amusement piers jutting out into the New York harbor. We do not have an amusement park on Staten Island. This would be new economic activity for Staten Island.

How about a waterfront campus for Wagner College? Other Island gets the colleges and university; Staten Island gets a wheel. How did this happen?

5) How is prosperity from the 14 acre campus of this project achieved and distributed throughout the rest of Staten Island so another Atlantic City is not created?

Despite promises, prosperity in Atlantic City has not propagated from the Casinos to the surrounding neighborhoods. Will this new project be Staten Island’s Atlantic City? It will unless transportation is created to carry the tourists to other Staten Island locations. It is a fact of history that prosperity follows transportation. Therefore, to distribute prosperity off the 14 acre campus in St. George to other parts of Staten Island, we must first take advantage of the proximity of the project to the waterfront. Let’s start by building a ferry terminal off the 14 acre waterfront campus and a terminal somewhere in the vicinity of the boardwalk in the South Beach section of Staten Island. Let’s make the terminals adequate to host both a water taxi service to and from South Beach and the 14 acre campus and Staten Island’s first fast ferry service to Manhattan. Let’s also build a dedicated bicycle path to the Staten Island boardwalk. Let’s then continue with a series of terminals that circumnavigate Staten Island. Around each terminal build prosperity zones for businesses and surface transportation hubs to the other Staten island attractions such as the Staten Island Zoo and Historic Richmond Town. Unless transportation is built to carry the prosperity outside the 14 acre campus in St. George, prosperity will be bottled up within 14 acres of St. George with little to no benefit to the rest of Staten Island.

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John Bosco
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