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Huge Ferris wheel sought for Staten Island

New York's next biggest tourism draw may be in the unlikeliest of places -- Staten Island.

The city is in talks to build the world's largest Ferris wheel -- at a towering 600 feet tall -- just outside the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, a move that could capitalize on the 2 million tourists who ride the ferry every year.

The talks, first reported by the Staten Island Advance, stem from a city request for bids last summer for a few areas near the terminal, and Staten Island Borough President Jamies Molinaro said the plan could elevate the borough tremendously.

"I support this 110 percent for what it would do for the economy of New York City and what it would do for Staten Island," Molinaro said.

"Last year there were 50 million visitors . . . I want some of that money spent on Staten Island," he said, adding that the "collateral effect" of the wheel would bring restaurants, hotels and other tourism attractions.

The giant wheel, which would be about 200 feet taller than the famous London Eye across the pond, would likely open around November 2015, Molinaro said, and be around 300 feet from the entrance of the terminal.

Kyle Sklerov, a spokesman for the NYC Economic Development Corp., said it is "in active negotiations with multiple respondents" on the proposal.

Jonathan Bowles, director of the Center for an Urban Future, said the Ferris wheel could finally tap into a huge amount of tourism money that has gone unexplored for too long.

"If even a fraction of the tourists who take the ferry end up staying there and spending a little money, it would have a huge benefit on the borough," Bowles said.

"[The ferry] is just such an untapped asset for the borough, and it's just been a shame they haven't been able to capitalize on this incredible asset," Bowles said. "This may help with that."

It's unclear how much the Ferris wheel would cost, and whether the city would contribute.

Still, some New Yorkers said the gargantuan project wouldn't have any chance at flourishing in the city.

"No shot," said James Brown, 25, who lives in Bay Ridge. "There's only one Ferris wheel in [New York], and that's going to be the way it is."

But others said it could be just what Staten Island needs to raise its national and international profile.

"It would give Manhattan a rest," said Michelle Bethune, 23, of Jamaica. "It would give people a reason to branch out to other boroughs. There's more to New York than just Manhattan."

With Ariam Frezghi

and Katie Ulrich

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