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10 May 2017
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The Big Four of the Fifth Borough

“SI Ferry Docking Manhattan” by Andy C, licensed under CC Attribution Share Alike 3.0 Unported. Modified by Guzov, LLC.

New development initiatives in Staten Island’s North Shore, dubbed the Big Four by Borough President James Oddo, are underway as local residents and committees seek to erase the moniker of the “fifth borough” or “forgotten borough.”  The Four – Staten Island Urby, Empire Outlets, the New York Wheel, and Lighthouse Point – are answers to Requests for Proposals issued by the City in an attempt to bring in tourists and relocators alike.

Staten Island Urby, developed by Ironstate, is a 900-unit apartment complex and the first step in a revitalization effort known as the “New Stapleton Waterfront.”  The Waterfront will eventually encompass more residential units, as well as commercial and social developments.  As of now, however, Staten Island Urby is the only member of the New Stapleton Waterfront, and of the Big Four, to be complete.

The New York Wheel is set to be the world’s tallest Ferris wheel when it opens in 2018, rising to 630 feet and holding approximately 1,440 people on each 38 minute ride.  Its main developer, Starneth BV, is working with experts previously employed in the construction of the London Eye.  Right now, little more than the foundation is in place due to delays in the approval process, financial difficulties, construction setbacks, and lawsuits between contributing contractors.

Just next door, Empire Outlets is being built by BFC Partners, the development company behind numerous luxury condos, as well as the forthcoming super-project, Essex Crossing.  The Outlets will include retail space for one hundred stores, a 190-room hotel, and of course ample parking for the Ferris wheel.  Also included will be a much-anticipated food hall, MRKTPL (pronounced “marketplace”), which seeks to compete with Anthony Bourdain’s projected Pier 57 while retaining a true New York feel.  Recent rumors delay the opening date of the Outlets to coincide with the opening of the New York Wheel.

Finally, Lighthouse Point is a redevelopment of the U.S. Lighthouse Service Depot, which has been vacant for about thirty years.  The site is set to hold 62,000 square feet of retail space, apartments, a hotel, and various amenities.  However, aside from these generic projections, the developers behind this project, Triangle Equities, have released relatively few details – possibly because the site is not due to open until 2020.

It is easy to think the development of Staten Island is simply the next step in the surge of rezoning and condo-converting hitting the City’s “mainland,” but experts in the New York City Economic Development Corporation argue that Staten Island’s upgrade is something unique, and predates even that of Manhattan.  In a similarly unique way, longtime residents are not as opposed to these developments as residents in Manhattan have been to nearby construction.  Growth – a fear for those in parts of New York that already have very little room – is seen by Staten Island residents as a revitalizing prospect not only for business and family, but for the arts and community.  Nonprofits like the Design Trust for Public Space and Staten Island Arts are working with companies like BFC and Ironstate to keep Staten Island true to its roots.  Soon, that may be the only way in which Staten Island is distinguished from its “unforgotten” cousins across the water.

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