Home Staten Island What future Staten Island ferry service?

What future Staten Island ferry service?

by Benjamin Kabak

Will the New York Wheel give a boost to Staten Island transit options?

For better or worse, Staten Island has garnered a lot of ink lately. Gov. Cuomo’s toll giveaway garnered an intense reaction from New York politicians and media commentators alike. But for all the negative attention the toll measure has garnered, other forces are pushing Staten Island transit in a better direction all thanks to a giant Ferris wheel and an outlet mall.

As you may recall, toward the end of the Bloomberg Administration, the mayor, Staten Island politicians and some high-powered real estate folks got together on the New York equivalent to the London Eye. This giant Ferris wheel will sit above the St. George Terminal and abut a new outlet center. This being Staten Island, there will be more parking than any transit advocate would like to see, but the potential for these new attractions is also drawing ferry operators.

In a big piece in this week’s Crain’s New York, Lisa Fickenscher explores potential Staten Island growth fueled by better ferry service. The underlying premise is still shaky. We don’t know if the Ferris wheel or mall will actually become a reality or if 6 million people will make the long trek across the harbor to see these attractions. But relying on the Field of Dreams mantra, ferry operators believe that if you build it, they will come.

Fickenscher writes:

If the developers of those megaprojects are right, and some 6 million annual visitors begin flocking to sleepy Staten Island in two years – when the attractions are expected to be completed – every major ferry company in the city, including New York Water Taxi, BillyBey Ferry Co., Statue Cruises and Seastreak, will be dropping off riders at a dock just a short distance from the St. George Terminal, where the Staten Island Ferry lands.

All those businesses are currently in negotiations with the New York Wheel and BFC Partners, which is developing the outlet center, evaluating whether they need to purchase more boats and how much they should charge to transport tourists from points in midtown Manhattan, New Jersey, Brooklyn and Queens directly to the North Shore of Staten Island. There are no regulatory impediments standing in the way of expanded service. The city is seeking a developer to build and operate a new ferry landing…

The ferry operators’ main competition would not be each other but the Staten Island Ferry, which transports 20 million people a year to the borough on nine boats that operate seven days a week – and, most important, offers a free ride. “The big unknown is how many people will use the Staten Island Ferry,” said [Statue Cruises’ Michael] Burke. “I think a majority will go on the free boat.”

To keep the cost competitive with the free option, [Paul] Goodman of BillyBey said that subsidies either from the developers or from the city may be necessary. That could allow the boats to also cater to Staten Island commuters willing to pay a little more for direct service to midtown, for example. The city has already indicated that it will not subsidize new ferry service to St. George.

It will be interesting, to say the least, to see how Staten Island reacts to a potential invasion of tourists. At least the hordes of crowds will be confined to the St. George area, but the new attractions could create traffic problems across the Outerbridge Crossing or the Goethals, Bayonne or Verrazano Bridge. Meanwhile, the free Staten Island ferries will fill up with day travelers while regular commuters could find their rides far less comfortable. For a borough that has battled the tensions of development for decades, what lies in store could create some deep fissures.

More important though is the added ferry service. Can more ferries at St. George solve Staten Island’s transit problems? Can the city figure out a way to encourage ferries to eye alternate landings throughout Staten Island to better serve the borough’s commuting population? These aren’t questions we can answer now, but they are questions that deserve more thought and consideration before the New York Wheel and outlet mall open in 2016. Staten Island deserves it.

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adirondacker12800 March 3, 2014 - 1:27 am

Sleepy little ol’ Staten Island, if was to break away and become it’s own city would the 35th most populous in the US ( using 2010 census numbers )
6 million people a year averages to a little over 16,000 a day. They wouldn’t be spread out evenly over the year. But then even on busy days they would be spread out over the day. Hardly hordes. It’s the same amount of people the use medium sized subway stations.

Matthew March 3, 2014 - 6:45 pm

…. and if Nassau County was to become it’s own city it would have a population of 1.3 million.

What is your point?

Ralfff March 4, 2014 - 3:18 am

I think we’re just tired of having writers who never visit Staten Island call it sleepy or far-flung or whatever. It’s part of New York City, it’s not Vieques for chrissakes.

Eric March 4, 2014 - 3:30 am

As opposed to East Harlem, which really could be mistaken for Vieques 🙂

AG March 4, 2014 - 8:30 am

Ummm Puerto Rican numbers are greatly reduced in East Harlem… just like the Italians before them (though not as drastic). Central Americans are most of the newcomers – and non Hispanic whites priced out of Manhattan below 96th street. Even the Chinese are moving up there… but Puerto Ricans? Not many new ones.

Andrew2 March 4, 2014 - 1:01 pm

Thank you Ralfff, well said. Can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with “New Yorkers” who bitch, wail, moan and insult Staten Island, which usually ends with me asking “when was the last time you went there?” so I can watch the blank look on their faces before they state “well, I’ve never actually been there.”

Such New Yorkers that they can’t take a FREE damned ferry ride for 25 minutes and see a different part of the city. It’s a big world folks; be adventurous.

Chet March 3, 2014 - 8:20 am

What I would like to see done is some investigation into a different kind of ferry boat- a catamaran style ships that can carry 1500 people, and cut ten to twelve minutes off the trip.

Combine that faster trip with more frequent service and that would be awesome.

al March 3, 2014 - 2:06 pm

Higher speed equals more skin and wave drag. It would have to have advanced designs (combined cycle engine, LNG fuel, hydrophobic or air bubble mediated skin drag reduction) and high degree of crew automation to cut operating costs. That is unless you charge $2 for faster service.

Eric March 4, 2014 - 3:40 am

It would be much cheaper than a subway tunnel, I’d expect.

And the service improvement could be dramatic. From Wikipedia: “The high-speed Stena (HSS) is the world’s largest fast ferry, traveling at a speed of 46 mph, although it is capable of doing over 70 mph.” At 46mph, the Staten Island-Manhattan trip would take about 7 minutes. You could definitely charge extra for that.

Alon Levy March 4, 2014 - 5:31 am

The Vancouver SeaBus travels a bit less than half the distance of SI-Manhattan in 10-12 minutes. The limiting factor to speed isn’t drag, but the wake. It’s a busy shipping channel and high speeds disturb other traffic through the harbor.

AG March 4, 2014 - 8:46 am

How does it compare to “Sea Streak” to/from NJ cost wise? I know it’s like $40 to Sandy Hook. Do ppl in Vancouver use that for commuting for work or more leisure?

John-2 March 3, 2014 - 8:52 am

It’s a tough call, because other than higher sales, income and ad valorem taxes created within the St. George-Thompkinsville areas, there’s no way for the city to increase free ferry service on their own without losing more money, and for the private companies, competing with a free service, even if its faster and/or has more creature comforts, is a risky proposition.

The city has enough boats now to run expanded 20-minute service and expanded 30-minute off-hours service; the bigger costs would be fuel, maintenance and added staffing, while the competing boats would have to deal not just with finding dock locations, but finding them where the subway in Manhattan is just as handy as it is at South Ferry (you lose you time advantage if your trip is 10 minutes faster but it’s a 5-10 minute longer walk from your dock to and from the subway).

lawhawk March 3, 2014 - 9:54 am

NY Waterway may have an advantage since they’d potentially be able to link up with their midtown Manhattan terminal, which will be a few minutes walk from the new 7 line extension station. NY Waterway also operates buses that run on a loop, so that would figure in to their plans.

But I frankly don’t see this being a major shift. The SI Ferry can handle the traffic flows, and I’d wager that a significant portion of the additional traffic would come in the form of counter-flow – going to Staten Island during the AM rush, and back to Manhattan during the PM rush, plus midday when there isn’t as much traffic. The additional traffic could require additional service during both periods, but the existing SI ferry fleet could be adjusted to accommodate that.

Moreover, even if you shifted where the additional ferries were docking to north of the Ferris wheel and shopping, you’re not going to get the linkups and traffic flow sufficient to make it worth competing with the SI Ferry to the south. There isn’t enough transit links on the Island at that area to make it work either. If you’re already heading towards St. George from other points on SI to get into Manhattan, you’ll go to the terminal and catch the SI Ferry, even if you’re heading towards midtown as your ultimate destination.

AG March 3, 2014 - 11:17 am

The city was pretty clear they won’t increase free service. As to the private companies – it may be worth it for the developer to subsidize the trip (which they are negotiating). Witness the huge amount of tourists that go up to Woodbury or over to jersey gardens. They are also trying to make it convenient for ppl going to the airport.
The developers are looking not just at lower manhattan but queens – Brooklyn – points in jersey also.

The same thing is being talked about for ferry point in the Bronx – bc the Donald trump/jack Nicklaus golf course and another nearby outlet mall (which may open before the Staten Island one) are scheduled to open in the next 24 months.

SEAN March 3, 2014 - 9:13 am

I would be a little concerned with the outlet proposal since nearly every retail developer is building them now. However if it atracts aditional ferry routes & transit connections, there maybe some value in it.

SEAN March 3, 2014 - 9:22 am

It will be interesting, to say the least, to see how Staten Island reacts to a potential invasion of tourists. At least the hordes of crowds will be confined to the St. George area, but the new attractions could create traffic problems across the Outerbridge Crossing or the Goethals, Bayonne or Verrazano Bridge.

You may not have as much traffic from NJ since there are outlet malls in Jackson, Elizabeth & Paramus.

More important though is the added ferry service. Can more ferries at St. George solve Staten Island’s transit problems? Can the city figure out a way to encourage ferries to eye alternate landings throughout Staten Island to better serve the borough’s commuting population? These aren’t questions we can answer now, but they are questions that deserve more thought and consideration before the New York Wheel and outlet mall open in 2016. Staten Island deserves it.

Lets hope so.

anon_coward March 3, 2014 - 9:30 am

might actually go see the staten island yankees now

Andrew2 March 3, 2014 - 12:39 pm

You should go even before the Wheel is built. Awesome stadium, very clean and family friendly. Tix are crazy cheap, the ferry ride is free, and the views of the harbor during a twilight game are incomparable.

pkyc0 March 3, 2014 - 9:51 am

hopefully the tourist will attract the ferry services, which then attracts people to live in st george. but there will need to be development and increases in density in st george to sustain it. current staten islanders live too far away from st george to make it faster than xbus

Herb Lehman March 3, 2014 - 10:48 am

The ferries themselves (except for the two overnight boats and perhaps the older and somewhat smaller John F. Kennedy) are large enough to handle the extra crowds; the real problem here is getting all those people through the doors at Whitehall terminal without throwing the boats off schedule. Since there are already many tourists on the ferry, that’s already been a significant problem, as any rider of the weekday 6 p.m. boat from New York to Staten Island–or any weekend ferry–can tell you.

My gut feeling is that most of the tourists going to the Ferris wheel and the outlet mall will continue to take the free boat, but we will see.

Boris March 4, 2014 - 1:14 am

The problem is that Coast Guard security restrictions don’t allow boardings at the lower level (those exempt, like cyclists, are subject to a security screening). If boarding happened on both levels, it would be that much quicker. What needs to happen at both terminals is smarter, more flexible security that would allow for better circulation when boarding as well as in the waiting rooms and mixing areas on both levels.

Michael March 4, 2014 - 11:20 pm

Just a few points.

All of the ferry boats have had a set of stairways to reach every deck of the boat. From the earliest designs to the present some boats made transferring from one deck to the next either very easy or harder. Once on a boat the riders could change levels. We note an exception for the wheel-car bound until the Molinari class boats. Features both old and new have been incorporated into both the ferry boats and the ferry terminals and more have had a bearing on how the boats are boarded.

For a very long time (decades) the main level for passengers was the deck ABOVE the car/truck level. A quick look at the history of the previous ferries shows the locations of the main passenger deck. As the lanes for cars/trucks increased the space for the side cabins became smaller. As docks were not getting any bigger, the only solution was to go “up” to carry more riders. Observant transit fans can reflect upon the location of the elevated South Ferry train terminal and its connecting pathways between the oldest South Ferry terminal buildings.

As the elevated IRT train lines in Manhattan were removed, a 1950’s style functional Staten Island ferry terminal was opened that had to use the same slips and dimensions’ of the previous ferry terminal, this particular iteration of the South Ferry terminal lasted until a fire in 1991. The architectural history of the Battery Maritime Building provides some linkages to the past and long gone structures. In any case, the elevated train terminal passageways lined up with the main waiting room and the ferry boat passenger decks, although stairways within the terminal, and their waiting rooms allowed access to the main deck of the boats.

For decades cars and trucks were allowed to travel on the Staten Island Ferries. In the decades before the VZB Bridge and the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel opened – the ferries were the only direct path between Staten Island and the rest of the city. Car usage on the ferries was a contested issue among various factions until long after the opening of these facilities.

The current St. George Ferry Terminal rests upon the base of a new terminal design from 1955. The 1955 fire destroyed the old St. George Terminal complex and railroad station – a collection of disparate facilities lead to the creation of a much more integrated building and complex. This new integrated but spread-out building had to accommodate – the older slip locations and sizes, a new railroad terminal, a railroad yard, car staging ramps, taxis stands, parking lots, a new bus terminal and bus ramps, plus passenger, maintenance and layup slips for the various ferries. Whereas the old St. George terminal was a small affair with trolley tracks and connecting passageways to the railroad facilities – the “newish” terminal had to handle MORE. This terminal was bigger, bigger than its Manhattan sister, and was the base for all ferry maintenance operations. Sports fans will note that the newish Staten Island Yankee Baseball Stadium, and its associated park, and parking lots replaced the old B&O North Shore railroad yard that existed next to the ferry terminal.

At the St. George Ferry Terminal on the sides of each of the slips there are stairways from the main level to the lower boarding level of the boats. That is the level originally used by cars and trucks. For decades, riders have been able to enter and exit the boats using both the main deck (just above the water) as well as the gang-ways that reach the second level – the level many riders use. The 2004 renovations did not have to re-invent everything from the ground up – in blending and meshing the various functions.
At the St. George Ferry Terminal two levels continue to be used for entering, or exiting the ferry boats, as well as leaving the terminal. The ground-based exit leads to one of parking areas, and the area for waiting cars. Those using the SIR, taxis, buses, the major parking lots and the street exits have to use the main terminal building to reach those facilities. Stairs on each side of the slips lead to the main floor of the terminal for riders to access the SIR, taxis, buses, etc. Prior the 2004 renovation, from the ground level slips one could walk directly to the streets, and to the parking lots. Today one must go through the terminal building to reach the parking lots, SIR, buses, taxis and the street exits. Those using the parking lots and sidewalks near the baseball stadium must climb the stairs to enter the terminal building.

Over time the St. George terminal provided a great deal of flexibility when it came to getting on or off the boats, as well as to and from the various facilities, even though some of the 2004 renovations have in a sense curbed some the “freedom of access”.
At the current Whitehall Street Ferry Terminal none of the slips have stairways that are open to the public to use for boarding the boats. Only those using bikes or handicapped person wheel-chairs are allowed to use the main deck (just above the water level) for entry on to the boats. All other riders (the great majority) must go through the waiting room to board all of the boats by using the gang-ways. The turn-styles are used for rider counts. All riders can use both levels (gang-way and main deck) for LEAVING the terminal and exiting the building.

The “old” Whitehall Terminal (before the 1991 fire) only allowed boarding of the boats from the gang-way level, since that was the level upon which fares were collected. Riders had to go inside the huge terminal waiting room, pay a fare using the turn-styles to gain entry on the boats. If memory serves only 1 or 2 of the slips had open stairways to reach the ground floor-main deck of the boats. Not all of the slips had stairways to reach the lower level. One could exit the boats from either gang-way or main deck level to leave the building. On the Staten Island side at the time, entering or exiting the boats and terminal could be done at either level. Since fares were not collected on the Staten Island side (except for cars, another story), entering or exiting the building or boats was not difficult at all.

After the 1991 fire that destroyed the Whitehall Terminal Waiting Room, fare collection was moved to the Staten Island side. The construction work upon the burnt ruins to create the not-so “Temporary” Manhattan Terminal removed most of the stairways between the ground floor and the waiting room. This became a major issue during the construction of the “not-so” Temporary Terminal when only ground-floor boarding was allowed. At that time, ferry riders had to huddle in the street-space that was used by cars while waiting to board the boats. After the “not-so” Temporary Terminal was opened the only way to change decks was to use the stairways on the boats themselves.

Once fare collection started on the Staten Island side folks riding the ferries always had to go inside the Waiting Room to pay their fare, one could no longer directly enter a boat slip from the street. There were no limitations on exiting the building. After the free fare in 1997 was established, but before the 2004 renovation, riders could enter or exit the boats, the slips or the terminal at St. George in a variety of ways including directly from the street. There were concerns about accurate passenger counts on the ferries, with newspaper stories on Staten Island. After the 2004 renovation work all ferry entries have to be done through the waiting room!

When the new Whitehall terminal was being designed, there was debate on whether cars would be allowed on the boats, and if the new terminal should accommodate cars. There were folks who argued that the new ferry terminal and the new boats be designed without any car-access at all. They wanted all car usage on the ferries completely stopped. The architects of the new terminal had produced plans for riders to board and exit the boats from both levels with a bi-level waiting room and amenities. The plans at that time meant that on the Manhattan side, ferry riders would be able to board freely from both levels.

Others argued for the inclusion of cars in the plans since Staten Island has few transportation options. In that debate – push came to shove – and was resolved where the new terminal and the new ferries were re-designed to handle cars, even though cars have not been allowed for more than a decade. In any case, this meant changes to the designs of the Whitehall Terminal. One of the changes was that the stairways between the main-deck level/ground level and the waiting room level were placed behind doors and walls – no open stairways.

The architects of the New Whitehall Terminal were not only dealing with the construction of a new terminal for which they had to use the old slip locations and dimensions, but also the creation of a new park and plaza, bus access, direct access to the #1 and #9 subway station, improved access to the R and W train station, bike access and other features. In addition their plans had to be flexible enough to accommodate a long talked about new South Ferry subway terminal station. They had a lot on their plate – design wise.

After construction the terminals that were designed in the 1990’s had to meet a series of 9/11 based security concerns. That is why several of the out-door court areas at both terminals are often closed to the public. On the Manhattan side, the out-door court area was often a pleasant space compared to the cramped not-so “Temporary” Terminal.

My basic point is that a lot more than just the “Coast Guard” or 9/11 based security arrangements have had an effect upon the boarding of the boats. I would include the changing designs and physical shapes of the terminals themselves, and the thinking that went into those designs, and usage patterns. In addition there were issues of fare collection, as well as the collection of needed ridership counts. Both the ferry boats and the terminals contain elements of both the old and new. There is not a single entity to blame!


Jim D. March 3, 2014 - 12:21 pm

An outlet mall – really? The typical American probably has four or five outlet malls within a two-hour drive – what is this place going to offer that is unique and different?

I probably visit the city for sightseeing purposes two or three times a year with family and friends – I can safely state than none of the ladyfolk I travel with would have the slightest interest in taking the ferry to S.I. for an outlet mall. They want to go to Chinatown, SoHo, Fifth Avenue, etc., just to soak up the Manhattan vibe and then go home and tell their friends that they did.

Andrew2 March 3, 2014 - 12:41 pm

“An outlet mall – really? The typical American probably has four or five outlet malls within a two-hour drive – what is this place going to offer that is unique and different?”

A huge Ferris wheel, one of the largest on planet Earth, that will give tourists a 360 view of New York Harbor and the Manhattan skyline? Maybe?

SEAN March 3, 2014 - 1:33 pm

A huge Ferris wheel isn’t a great insentive to atract shoppers to an outlet mall. there are regularly scheduled busses plus tour busses that travel to Woodburry Commons or Jersey Gardens. You think tourests will say to them selves – oh, there’s an outlet mall in Staten Island, I got to go there. I’m not sure, but I could be wrong.

Jeff March 3, 2014 - 2:16 pm

One big reason for them to build the Ferris Wheel and the outlet mall at St. George is because tourists ARE already going to Staten Island. Many, many tourists actually.

They are going to SI because the SI Ferry is the best deal in the city. You get to travel through the harbor and see the Statue of Liberty from close distances for free, as well as the Lower Manhattan skyline. Its one of the top destinations on the Trip Advisor app, for example.

The biggest problem is all of these tourists currently head right back out once they arrive in SI. The Ferris Wheel and the outlet mall are meant to KEEP these people in St. George, so the city isn’t just giving away free rides for nothing.

Ralfff March 4, 2014 - 3:23 am

Yes, thank you for this post. This is the only reason this stuff is even being proposed in the first place. I hate the goddamn wheel but this is the logic, at least, not some sort of regional draw for motorists.

AG March 3, 2014 - 3:27 pm

Actually Woodbury commons are quite worried that outlet malls are opening in the Bronx and Staten Island. As to jersey gardens – u think all the tourists who already use the SI ferry wouldn’t rather go there? And the wheel? Considering g the huge crowds that the ones in London and Singapore get – I would say there will be demand

afk March 3, 2014 - 3:47 pm

Bus to woodbury commons
http://www.woodburyshuttle.com.....uttle.html $70 roundtrip from Manhattan
http://www.woodburybus.com/ $40 round trip from Manhattan
CoachUSA $37 roundtrip adult, $16 kids from PABT
http://www.yehuu.net/ $35 from chinatown or flushing

Subway to south ferry + a free ferry ride giving you nice views of the harbor, pay for a ride on the SI wheel and you still have more money, and quite possibly more time, for shopping at the outlet mall.

Driving to woodbury, counting in gas, wear and tear on the car, from Queens or Brooklyn won’t be any cheaper than driving to st George, and a good bit more time as well.

I don’t think it’s going to take too many tourists away from central park or Manhattans traditional tourist spots, but it doesn’t have to for it to be successful.

AG March 3, 2014 - 4:29 pm

Yes – exactly. Quite frankly – the private ferry operators could charge the same as the cheapest bus and they would probably siphon off a good portion of those Woodbury Commons travelers/shoppers. Those Woodbury buses might have to cut their prices.

Ppl from Queens would probably travel to the one to be built in the Bronx since it’s slated to be 5 minutes of the Whitestone Bridge (at the former Whitestone Cinema). Then there are also the outlets in Deer Park.

SEAN March 3, 2014 - 4:38 pm

On Bruckner Boulevard?

AG March 3, 2014 - 4:47 pm

Right at the intersection of the Bruckner and the Hutchinson River Parkway.


SEAN March 3, 2014 - 8:04 pm

Exactly where I thaught it was. That site was once a drive-in theatre before the multiplex was constructed. I recall that there were plans to redevelop the Bronx armery into some kind of retail complex as well – outlets perhaps?

There is a mall under construction at Bay Plaza, it’s opening sometime this year.

AG March 4, 2014 - 8:37 am

Yeah – I grew up not far from Whitestone. Well by the time I was around – no one really wanted to go there because you needed a gun. There were many incidents of violence by that time. I guess it never really recovered from the reputation of those bad old days. Plus retail makes more money than cineplexes nowadays… and more jobs for teenagers to work after school and on weekends.

The armory is becoming the Kingsbridge National Ice Center (a much better idea since Fordham Rd. is right down the road).

Yes there is a huge one going up in Bay Plaza (which already is one of the best performing shopping centers per square foot in the country)… But there is also a much smaller one just south of this Whitestone Cinema site – called the Throggs Neck Shopping Center. I think it opens in the spring. It’s not the same target customers (no pun intended).

SEAN March 3, 2014 - 4:36 pm

Lets not forget that this outlet center will be an multi-story &open-air project. It will be similar to Bronx Terminal Market in style without the garage in the middle acording to the renderings I saw. Not a fun place to go in the winter when the wind really blows or the snow flies as it has since January.

AG March 3, 2014 - 4:43 pm

After New Years the tourists crowds thin in NYC until the spring (see hotel vacancy rates).

Plus winter is slow for most retail places…. but January at St. George can’t be any worse than also outdoor Woodbury. It’s generally 15 degrees lower temp up there.

As to the wheel… London’s winters are not as harsh.. but I’m sure they get less business in their winter also.

Henry March 3, 2014 - 7:44 pm

The outlest will poach existing shoppers from regional malls, much as Empire Raceway and Resorts World Casino have drawn consumers away from Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, who in turn were drawn away from Atlantic City.

Of the three, Woodbury is the biggest pain in the ass to frequent; the Thruway from Woodbury is often bumper to bumper when everyone leaves, and on top of that it takes up to an hour to leave the parking lot, since the entire outlet area has only one exit and entrance out of a bowl-shaped parking lot. Woodbury’s serious competition are all also an hour away from the city limits, but St. George is within the five boroughs. The outlets should draw many people from New York and the metro area, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Roxie March 3, 2014 - 12:51 pm

Because everyone has a car they can use to drive for two hours to go buy a marginally cheaper pair of shoes at a mall in the middle of nowhere.

adirondacker12800 March 3, 2014 - 4:24 pm

Jersey Gardens and all the outlets in Secaucus aren’t in the middle of nowhere.

Henry March 3, 2014 - 7:46 pm

But for the majority of residents, they’re at least an hour away, and that’s before you count traffic. Both the Thruway and the Hudson crossings are congested at all times of day, and at the tunnels the wait can be as long as 45 minutes.

Jeff March 3, 2014 - 2:12 pm

That’s all good and all, but not every NYC tourist is the same as you. Many, many tourists to NYC are internationals from Europe and Asia who came to NY for one BIG reason – to shop at prices that are unheard of in their home countries.

An outlet mall they can stop by when they visit the city would be like shopping heaven to these people.

Bolwerk March 3, 2014 - 2:41 pm

That makes no sense. Even assuming prices could be lower in NYC than their home countries, which is a stretch already, almost nobody comes just to shop for generic consumer items. They either shop so little they don’t attract customs officials’ attention, in which case they don’t have any advantage after paying for their plane ticket and enduring a 5-24 hour flight, or they shop so much that they have to pay heavy transportation and customs charges.

Maybe some people come to show off their status by shopping in NYC, but those people are probably not looking for outlet malls on Staten Island.

Matthew March 3, 2014 - 3:02 pm

In many parts of the world, the “mall” is as american as apple pie. Whenever any of the Chinese and Russian nationals I know have family/friends come visit NYC they take them shopping at the malls in NJ, because quite often we have lower prices for the same luxury goods.
Take any Apple product, while they are made in China, it is actually cheaper to buy them in the US. A MacBook Pro in the US costs $500-700USD less than in China. If you talk to many of the immigrants in the city, a lot of them send remittances to their families, but they also buy a lot of specialty goods, and ship them back. If NYC can funnel the costs of all of those goods through their local retailers instead of through NJ’s the state can make a lot more in sales tax revenue. In the case of the outlet mall, this location will be highly competitive with all of the NJ malls because it is in a transit accessible location. This is important because their is a direct connection between how long someone has been in the US and their propensity to take transit; the foreign born populations in the US are dis-proportionally more likely to be transit dependent than those born in the US.

AG March 3, 2014 - 5:37 pm

Oh yes… It’s cheaper to buy a laptop or smartphone in NY and ship it to the Caribbean than it is to buy it in most Caribbean countries. Caribbean shipping companies do huge business for all kinds of goods in The Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens. And yes like you said – when their relatives come here – they do PLENTY of shopping. Even for dry-goods. I remember when my grandfather would come here he’d buy them literally by the barrel-load.

As to China – you are absolutely correct. I only know this by reading – but many luxury makers are not adding that many stores in China.. Why? Simply because the Chinese prefer to travel to Europe to shop since luxury goods are so much cheaper. Car companies are obviously different – but they LOVE China because they make so much more because they charge such high prices there.

AG March 3, 2014 - 4:24 pm

Woodbury Commons has special translators (especially Chinese) to handle all the NYC international tourists that go up there. Jersey Gardens has a large portion of their shoppers going into and out of Newark Liberty before they leave.

Stores on Fifth Ave. in Manhattan have Portuguese speakers just to serve the high rolling Brazilians who come here just to shop.

Also – I can speak for many friends and family who come to NYC from England and spend days just shopping because everything is so “cheap”.

Bolwerk March 3, 2014 - 9:03 pm

I wasn’t disputing that people shop when they come from abroad, or downplaying its importance, but it doesn’t make much sense to suppose many come just to shop, as Jeff seemed to be saying – especially for things that are commonly available at home. The population that comes only or even mostly to shop and finds the value such that it overcomes plane ticket costs and probably lodging is small gonna be small (and, yes, wealthy).

And isn’t Fifth Ave. just a little more, er, hate to put it this way, “high class” than an outlet mall?

Henry March 3, 2014 - 7:52 pm

The “outlets” aren’t exactly super generic; Woodbury features premium outlets such as Oscar de la Renta, Prada, Dior, etc.

Before the crisis hit, there were stories in the papers of people coming in from overseas with empty suitcases and leaving with them full, simply because the dollar made everything so cheap. It’s not as uncommon as you might think.

Tower18 March 3, 2014 - 10:46 pm

Your point about Staten island vs 5th ave notwithstanding, plenty of Brazilians, Chinese, Russians, hell even Canadians, ccome to the US for the sole purpose of shopping. Clothing and related goods are often some 30% cheaper in New York CITY (not even accounting for taxes) than in suburban Canada. Don’t even get started on Brazil.

Bolwerk March 4, 2014 - 10:04 am

30% cheaper still doesn’t make it make sense when a plane ticket alone runs into the four figures. However important shopping is, it’s incidental to the trip except in very non-typical cases.

Okay, Canadians crossing the border to do some shopping certainly makes sense, but even they mostly aren’t penetrating several hundred kilometers into U.S. territory just to shop in NYC, even if they can pay for the rest of the trip for under four figures.

Jeff March 4, 2014 - 12:22 pm

Ever heard of frequent flyer mileage or reward mileage? Or company expense accounts?

It DOES make plenty of sense that people travel to shop. Especially with the amount of options out there for people to pay for travel. People outside of the US also travel internationally a lot more than Americans do. And yes, people do it ALL the time.

Bolwerk March 4, 2014 - 12:49 pm

Well, that pretty much establishes who you’re talking about.

s/people do/the 1\% does/

It’s not a very good generalization about most of the world. However, it is easy to travel internationally when you live near an international border, as likely hundreds of millions if not billions of people do. Fewer people are frequent intercontinental travelers.

Henry March 4, 2014 - 1:14 pm

That’s presumably the target market for this outlet (and is actually a target market for Woodbury Commons). Woodbury actually provides translation services and scheduled buses from the city and airports for these tourists, and the announcements at the mall are usually in a variety of languages, as is the signage, so it’s not like there isnt a market to poach. If the market didn’t exist, no one would try and cater to it.

Considering that currency valuations can mean that goods can be 1.5 to twice as much abroad, and that New York has both clothing brands and consumer electronics, it’s not exactly surprising. It would be terrible if they were using big-box stores to anchor this development, but they’re not.

AG March 4, 2014 - 2:00 pm

Yeah – but it doesn’t make “sense” for New Yorkers to go all the way to King of Prussia or the outlets in Delaware and elsewhere – but they do.

Foreigners spend a whole lot when they come to NYC. You might not think it but to the rest of the world it means something to say “I bought this in NY” (or London).

Bolwerk March 4, 2014 - 3:26 pm

But that’s not what I was addressing. I was addressing a pretty narrow assertion: that outlet mall-level goods are going to be so attractive that people are going to fly thousands of miles to just to get them and go home. It’s not something that never happens, but it can probably be filed under “almost never.”

King of Prussia or Delaware make sense to me as shopping destinations for NYers. They aren’t thousands of miles away, they’re 100+ miles away. If you like to drive, it’s an enjoyable diversion rather than a taxing day of flying. And back when gas prices and tolls were lower, such trips made even more sense.

AG March 4, 2014 - 4:24 pm

As others have pointed out again and again – Woodbury Commons caters to literally bus loads of foreign tourists daily. Jersey Gardens gets the Newark Airport crowd. Even the outlet mall outside of Chicago has special relationships with O’hare – where you can check your luggage. This is long established business practice. It’s not a new concept.

The same reason you would go to King of Prussia is the same reason foreigners come to NY to shop. It’s not a question – it’s a measurable fact.

Bolwerk March 4, 2014 - 6:52 pm

Are you sure you’re responding to the right person? ‘Cause I can’t see where I said Woodbury Commons doesn’t cater to foreign tourists. However, the percentage of the travel population that goes there only to shop may very well round very neatly down to 0. And that’s considering it’s a Disney-esque destination for the affluent, which an outlet mall on Staten Island probably wouldn’t manage to be.

Also, that’s not to say 1%ers (probably more like 1‰ers) who come only to shop are a trivial part of the economy. But they’re almost certainly a trivial number of travelers.

Larry Littlefield March 3, 2014 - 3:26 pm

In a last gasp of debt-driven consumerism, outlet malls are going up all over the country. It’s the biggest trend in retail development, which is mostly being wiped out by the net.

Perhaps this is a last gasp for the corporations to get the money Generation Greed is having the federal government borrow to give them, which we will have to pay back. But Generation Greed drives.

In St. Louis, two competing outlet malls were built in close proximity, each racing to finish first knowing only one could be supported. I’m waiting to see which goes under. They’ve already issued a coup de grace to an older outlet mall, which was emptied.

SEAN March 3, 2014 - 4:22 pm

But Generation Greed drives.

In St. Louis, two competing outlet malls were built in close proximity, each racing to finish first knowing only one could be supported. I’m waiting to see which goes under. They’ve already issued a coup de grace to an older outlet mall, which was emptied.

I saw several articals on the two outlet malls you mentioned. Simon owns one & the other is owned by Taubman. The third one is a Mills project that Simon owns in Hazelwood.

I follow retail for a living & as I said above, developers are building outlets like crazy. That should be a warning that not all of them will survive.

Bolwerk March 5, 2014 - 3:29 pm

I remember when I was a kid driving by an abandoned retail outlet somewhere in the southeast and my mom commented something like, “Wow, you never see those boarded up.”

Nearly a generation later it happens all the time. No doubt EDC never got the memo.

AG March 3, 2014 - 4:19 pm

Well I guess if those private services start to run – the question will be cost and speed. If someone on Staten Island takes a job near ferry accessible areas of BK/Queens/Midtown (Downtown BK/Navy Yard/DUMBO/LIC/Hudson Yards/East of 2nd Ave. in Midtown) and it’s faster than taking the SI Ferry and a subway/bus then it can be a commuter option. I think ppl would be willing to pay a premium to save time.
It also depends on the times that the ferry will be running. How early would they run? Certainly though – it would benefit Staten Islanders going to those parts of the city for leisure activities. It will certainly beat driving.

To answer Ben’s last paragraph… It’s not likely that there will be many ferry stops that are not at least somewhat close to St. George. The private developers will have no incentive. That said – more frequent bus service to those private ferry operators could help too.

Phantom March 3, 2014 - 8:33 pm

Am I the only one who thinks that the SI Ferris Wheel will be an immense flop?

The London Eye is much more in the middle of town than the SI ride will be. The towers of Manhattan are relatively far away.

Michael March 3, 2014 - 11:13 pm

While I would really like nothing but good things to come out of the building of the shopping mall and Ferris wheel, I am a bit hesitate to jump on the bandwagon of the negative. Yes, it would be great to make Staten Island more of a tourist destination, and improve ferry service and bring about other positive changes.

However, when I look at the St. George and Whitehall Terminals – and note that the store spaces in both places have not ever been completely filled since their construction or renovation. It was thought that the building of the SI Yankee Stadium, and its associated park and parking would revive the immediate area. There were plenty of predictions and some new housing built that went almost or did go bankrupt, leaving abandoned half-completed construction sites. There are several storefronts and buildings in the St. George area have been empty for years. There was talk of several planned tourist sites such as expanded museums, light-houses and other ventures that were never built. There were wonderful pictures, ads and news stories of the changes to come, that did not.

I really, really want to be optimistic that all will turn out well. I really, really want the Ferris Wheel and shopping mall project to be a success, bringing about other improvements. Hoping for the best, and really trying not to be disappointed, again.


Phantom March 4, 2014 - 1:11 am


The. SI Yankees are what I’m talking about.

I’ve been there a good few times since they opened.

Attendance was good the first few years, but it has been way down the last couple of years.

Do not get your hopes up

This is a remote location if you don’t live on SI or work in lower Manhattan, no matter what is done with any ferries.

Beware of taxpayer funding for any of this, especially the ferris wheel…

AG March 4, 2014 - 8:16 am

Taxpayer funding??? Where did you even get that idea??? Does everything have to be a conspiracy theory?

Phantom March 5, 2014 - 11:40 am


Taxpayer funding was sought for this white elephant of all white elephants

Ask the governor

AG March 6, 2014 - 6:02 pm

The state specifically requested private entities to submit proposals. Literally hundreds of projects were awarded relatively miniscule amounts of money. The Daily News obviously didn’t understand that. They don’t even realize the former mayor had nothing to do with the plan.

Ralfff March 4, 2014 - 3:28 am

As Jeff posted, the logic is that it will get tourists who get off the ferry and have nowhere obvious to go. That said, I do doubt it will be a huge success, and I think it’s a bad idea in any case. But if it flops outright, I’d be surprised.

bigbellymon4 March 3, 2014 - 8:44 pm

I think that this mall might give renewed support of direct subway access to staten island because if they say that this will be as popular as they say it will be, eventuall the staten island ferry will not be able to acccomadate all of the tourists. I know that this is a LONG, LONG, LONG SHOT, it may become necesary to think about again.

afk March 3, 2014 - 11:26 pm

This mall would probably close before a subway to SI gets finished if they starting working on it tomorrow.

John-2 March 3, 2014 - 10:37 pm

As far as an outlet mall goes on Staten Island — or anything, really other than the two baseball stadiums, the two airports and (possibly) the Barclay’s Center — you’re not going to get a whole lot of tourists very far away from anyplace in the outer boroughs where they can’t see Manhattan. So anything catering to that group has to both be near the bayfront/riverfront and also be must near one or more bridges and subway lines to make it viable. Or the Staten Island Ferry and any other ferry lines that might want to set up on S.I.

St. George qualifies as one of those Not-Manhattan-But-Close-Enough locations. But the topography of St. George goes up in a hurry as you move away from Bay Street and Richmond Terrace. Not quite like, say, trying to walk against the one-way traffic flow up Lombard Street in San Francisco. But enough of an angle so that any outlet mall had better be right in the area of the terminal, so that disembarking passengers have a minimal walk to the site (i.e. not much more than they’d expect to do walking from their car to mall stores during the holiday shopping season), and so they’re not stumbling downhill with their purchases heading back to the boat.

So any potential area to lure tourists or other area residents to Staten Island in the numbers they’re hoping for is very limited at the outset, and is something the planners will need to take into account.

AG March 4, 2014 - 8:42 am

To answer your first paragraph… As the amount of tourists has swollen in the last decade to record highs…. Regions of the city outside of Manhattan have begun to attract more tourists. Most of these ppl are foreigners who don’t have the “fear” of the outer-boroughs – and domestic tourists who have visited NYC before and done all the typical touristy things and want to now “see the real NY”.
That said – many many “stick to Manhattan” tourists use the SI Ferry as others have pointed out. That’s the whole idea behind the developers proposing this project. They don’t have to “search” for ppl. They are already going – they just don’t stay. This wouldn’t get built on the other side of Staten Island.

Boris March 4, 2014 - 1:32 am

With private ferry service, the city would be successful in creating a completely closed loop of private services, which will simply funnel taxpayer money out of the city. Just like Atlantic City’s casinos killed smaller businesses and city street life, so does this mall have the potential to kill what’s little is available in St. George. I’m sure the developers of the mall and the Wheel will do everything possible to make sure the tourists frequent their services, and don’t go outside into the neighborhood.

afk March 4, 2014 - 1:50 am

The couple times I biked a lap around SI, after getting off the ferry the immediate area seemed pretty hostile to be in on a bike. I don’t imagine it would be less unpleasant on foot. Further south it gets a lot better though. If there were stores or restaurants there, they didn’t seem to be catering to anyone hopping off the ferry. Any attractions that appeal to those walking off the ferry would seem to make the area a lot more pleasant.

That said, what do you mean by private services funneling taxpayer money out of the city?

Ralfff March 4, 2014 - 3:36 am

I want to agree with you but I suspect the “don’t go outside into the neighborhood” cuts both ways. How many locals will go in there? How many tourists are going anywhere on Staten Island as it stands? I rode the S48 for years from the ferry and was never aware of their presence outside of the terminal except a few brave ones wandering outside; and the half-assed tourist desk with brochures in English only certainly didn’t help. I doubt they’re a significant economic factor as it is.

AG March 4, 2014 - 8:21 am

Tourists don’t frequent those businesses in large numbers now… so how exactly would this development kill them off?
Atlantic City has no real economy – that’s AC’s problem. Staten Island is not destitute like AC. The citizens of Staten Island have higher income. Why would they not continue to support their local businesses???
In any event – there are plenty of ppl in the general region of Staten Island who need employment.
As an aside – this is not the only development going on in that area… it’s just the biggest.

Paco March 4, 2014 - 2:54 am

With the wheel and any other development that comes to fruition, don’t you agree a bike-pedestrian pathway over the Verrazano would be a wise investment now to alleviate at least a portion of the extra trips that will be made to the borough? It is also the crux of the Harbor Ring plan… harboring.org

Phantom March 5, 2014 - 12:46 pm

I love the idea of a bike / pedestrian path over the VNB but I wouldn’t sell it on this development and the zillions and trillions of shoppers and tourists who supposedly will be heading to SI to get cheap underwear and ride the ferris wheel.

I’d sell a bike / pedestrian path on the basis of its recreational value to Staten Island, Brooklyn and other residents, esp if it was done in the context of expanding protected bike paths in both boroughs. There would be some benefit to some commuters, and maybe a shopper or two, but this is largely a recreational proposal – but a really good one.

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