Blunder wheel! City shouldn’t put observation ride in Staten Island, Coney Islanders say

Wheel wars: Coney Island's faithful say the observation wheel slated for Staten Island should instead be in the People's Playground. This is what it might look like.
Photo composite by John Napoli

A massive observation wheel slated for Staten Island should be built in Coney Island, claim People’s Playground boosters who say the amusement district should be home to anything remotely amusing in the city.

Staten Islanders cheered the news that they may be getting the 600-foot ride — the largest observation wheel in the world at twice the height of the Statue of Liberty — that will give tourists sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline, but Coney Island’s faithful are balking at the idea.

“The world’s largest Ferris wheel belongs in Coney!” said Dick Zigun, Coney Island’s unofficial mayor and founder of Coney Island USA. “The city needs to stay focused on rebuilding Coney into a first class major tourist destination, it shouldn’t encourage competition with Coney within the five boroughs.”

Borough leaders agreed with Zigun.

“Coney Island is America’s original amusement park and playground, and a natural location for the world’s tallest observation wheel,” said Borough President Markowitz, claiming that Coney’s existing attractions would draw far bigger crowds than Staten Island could ever provide.

“The city should consider what location will provide the biggest bang for the buck and the strongest economic return,” he said.

Markowitz’s words stuck in the craw of Staten Island’s biggest booster, who said Coney Island shouldn’t have all the fun.

“It’s just one wheel,” said Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro, who claims that the observation wheel won’t cater to Coney Island’s thrill-seeking, beach-going and freak-watching crowd.

“The people who are going to Coney Island aren’t from all over the world. They are from the five boroughs,” the politician said. “This wheel will be made for tourists. There’s not going to be amusements all around it, or hot dog stands.”

Zigun said if the city decides to put the observation wheel in Coney Island, it should be placed at a respectful distance from the landmarked Wonder Wheel — which is four times smaller — to avoid competition.

But observation wheels like the London Eye are quite different than traditional Ferris wheels — even one as iconic as the Coney Island Wonder Wheel.

Instead of sitting on swaying, open air carriages common at amusement parks and fairs around the world, visitors sit in fixed, bus-sized capsules that can carry more than 20 people.

Observation wheel makers say passengers don’t feel any movement or vibration at all — unlike riding the 82-year-old Wonder Wheel, where six people can fit in a car and 16 of the 24 cars slide back and forth as the wheel rotates.

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