Friday, June 29, 2012

Giant Observation Wheel Proposed For New York City

A mega observation wheel four times higher and wider than Coney Island’s Wonder Wheel is planned for New York City.  The proposed 600 hundred foot viewing attraction would revitalize the northern end of Staten Island at the ferry terminal and create a new iconic structure for the skyline of New York City.

The Staten Island Advance reported early this week that New York’s Plaza Capital Group Management LLC plans to build the attraction over current parking lots on the north shore of Staten Island next to the ferry terminal.  The lots sit on both sides of Yankee’s minor league stadium.  In addition, other bids were proposed for the parcels with mix-use office and commercial spaces to be developed.  The bids were requests by the New York Economic Development Corporation (EDC) last year to revitalize the area at the St. George waterfront.

Spokesman for the EDC, Benjamin Branham said the agency is in negotiations with multiple respondents for the two sites.  Nothing else was mentioned due to EDC’s regulation against publicizing any information while request for bids are in the works.  Leaving some speculation as to whether or not the city will get its observation wheel
Parcels for development - Staten Island
This is not the first time that a giant observation wheel was proposed for New York.  Office Landlord Douglas Durst and Tom Fox, co-founder of New York Water Taxi, tried to bring an observation wheel to Governors Island unsuccessfully in the past.

In a recent statement, Mr. Fox said that they had once considered Staten Island, as well, for a possible site of the attraction, but felt it would be an unfeasible choice, due to that fact that the site sits five miles from the tip of Manhattan.  During bad weather, fog, or a heavy summer haze the view would be too obscure.

KC rendering of wheel distance to Manhattan southern tip - Google view

Also in 2004 backers of the London Eye planned to build s a similar wheel which would stand at 450 feet (close to the London Eye’s height) on the East River waterfront directly between Battery Park and the Brooklyn Bridge.  After a requested study done by the backers of Maddame Tassaud’s Wax Museum, the plan fizzled.

The London Eye
Though the ferry service to Staten Island hauls an estimated 2 million tourists a year, most visitors turn back immediately without exploring the Staten Island side.  Besides the commuters, most tourists take the ferry for the larger scope of the Manhattan skyline and the up-close views of the Statue of Liberty.  The area around the ferry terminal on Staten Island has been neglected and run down for decades with little or no retail or entertainment.  The proposed giant wheel and its connected amenities would spark a revitalization of the area.

Though some Coney Island lovers would fantasize about having a new gargantuan icon erected near the boardwalk to go along with its shiny new major features, surely an observation wheel at 600 feet high fits best where the islands of the metropolitan area meet.  Of course, other Coney lovers would balk at the idea of overshadow its current iconic structures, anyway
But a perfectly situated attraction like an observation wheel at any great viewing spot in New York City would generate big business.  The London Eye at 443 feet tall has been slowly churning on the South Bank of London at the Thames River for 12 years and each year attracting 3.5 million visitors.  London’s iconic attraction wheel is operated by The Merlin EntertainmentGroup, the second largest attraction operator in the world   Only second to the Disney Company and bigger than Universal.

Photo by Ethan Prater
The fascination with mega observation wheels are reflected in its big business around the world.  Already wheels have popped up in other major cities around the globe.  Giant observation structures  are being built or have already been built in Malaysia; Manchester, England; Singapore, and Melbourne, Australia, Berlin, Dubai, Beijing, Orlando and Las Vegas.

According to the New York Times; out of the 3.5 million visitors that the London Eye and other wheels experience per year, on an average – most riders usually pay $30 dollars or more for a half hour rotation. And usually a wheel will come with other major developments at its base.  At the foot of the observation wheels in both Singapore and Melbourne, visitors walk through shops and eateries as they make their way to boarding the structure.  Unlike the London Eye which has a slow queue line that wraps around it.  But the competition for these wheels are much like the race for skyscrapers; always building higher, more luxurious, and full of boasting amenities.  

The Wiener Riesenrad, Vienna
The newer and more slick observation wheels boasts climate controlled rotating capsules and hold about 30 to 40 visitors.  Some hold events like business meetings and private parties. Others come equipped with plasma screens and even bars.  A smaller observation wheel, more like a Ferris wheel, at only 152 feet tall in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan has proposed perhaps the only indoor wheel.  The base of the structure is planned to house a bowling alley, a multiplex, a restaurant, and even a planetarium.  The Wiener Riesenrad or Giant Wheel in Vienna, which was rebuilt in 1945 after the original (1897) burnt down, boasts 15 spacious gondolas with several decked out as formal dining carriages.
Las Vegas

When it comes to wheeling and dealing, Las Vegas will not be left behind.  Along its flagrant strip, two two observation wheel attractions are to be erected and add more neon to the night skyline.  One is already being in the construction phase.  The SkyVueobservation wheel near the Mandalay Bay will rise up 500 feet when completed and stand higher than the hotel casino itself.  SkyVue’s developer Howard Bullock said, “Many others have been talking about erecting an observation wheel in Las Vegas for years, we just decided we were going to do it”.

In a fast moving technological world where only soaring higher and pushing further seems to be the only way we can seek gratification from our success and triumph.  Colossal structures that defy our natural bounds are becoming another fascination in our quest for reaching and going over the limits for our amusements.

[Observation Wheels from around the world - after the jump]

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Printed Trophies For This Year's Mermaid Parade! What the?

Image courtesy of The Great Fredini

This past Saturday, June 23rd 2012, Coney Island USA's big annual cultural arts event celebrated it's 30th year of the Mermaid Parade.  This year the organization wanted to improve on the various trophies handed out to its winning marches, so they decided to pretty much printed them out. That's right, just...printed them out.  However, not on regular paper or even on ultra high quality paper.

It turns out the trophies were printed out on a 3D printer that doesn't print on paper but rather spews out layers upon layers of plastic liquid which hardens.

The 3D printing machine is called a Thing-O-matic and it's by a company called Markerbot.  In a press release by the Coney Island USA organization, a statement read: "For this year’s 30th anniversary extravaganza, Coney Island USA’s resident artistic impresario extraordinaire, Fred Kahl aka. the Great Fredini has collaborated with Brooklyn’s 3D printing powerhouse MakerBot Industries to create one of a kind 3D printed trophies celebrating each of the parade’s 11 award categories!"
The eleven trophy categories which include the Judge’s Choice, Best Sea Creature, Best Mermaid, Best Neptune, and Best Push-Pull Float, printed 'sculptures', if you will, also came in vibrant colors.  A photo album can be viewed at The Great Fredini's Cabinet of Curiosities.

As far as Markerbot, the future of desktop printing even going 3D, could be the next big thing. Most anything can be printed like a knob for your washing machine, a money clip, a lens cap, or even an iPhone case with belt clip.  Practically, anything that can be scanned or created into a 3D computer graphic.  A consumer printer price starts at about $1,200.  Imagine, the future of 3D printing could bring metal or other material custom-made objects printed in your home or office.  In fact, not a printer but a mini factory.

To see the Thing-O-Bot in action see video below.

To see the winners of the eleven trophies for this year's Mermaid Parade visit the Coney Island USA website.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Coney Goodies: Sculptures Of Iconic Coney Structures

Wonder Wheel Sculpture by Herbert Hoover

The Coney Island Summer season of 2012 is well under way.  Within the recent years the look of Coney Island has been changing.  Some call it a progression towards a new and shiny Coney Island while others miss the way it was just a few years ago.  But fortunately, what has stayed are its iconic structures that will always define Coney Island well into the 21 Century.

Wonder Wheel Sculpture by Herbert Hoover made of microlite plywood

Two of these structures and their uniqueness have been captured in beautiful microlite plywood sculpts by local artist Herbert Hoover, who loves creating cast metal jewelry and sculptures.  The Wonder Wheel replica stands at 14 inches and is about equal that in width. It boasts 16 intricate cars.  Though they are fixed, Herbert Hoover, who does go by that name (his friends call him Herb), says he may do a kinetic version of the Wonder Wheel sculpture with moving cars in the future.  Though that would surely be an engineering puzzle, he says.
Parachute Jump by Herb Hoover

Herbert has also paid homage to Coney Island's other iconic structure; the Parachute Jump.  Another wooden sculpt, which stands taller at 18 inches. He calls this not only a Coney icon but also a quintessential Brooklyn figure.

The Parachute Jump was first created for a special annual alumni dinner at Brooklyn College as a centerpiece for their event. 

Herb was later asked by the College to do more centerpieces for them.  He then constructed the Wonder Wheel sculpture along with a replica of the Manhattan Bridge.  Herbert didn't just create one of each of these magnificent pieces, but several of them that were auctioned off to benefit the college.  Thirty centerpieces were bought at an auction in a single evening.

His passion for sculpting started with replicas of edible items.  He started with a pewter saltine cracker.  Later that grew into creating sculpts and casts of more snacks and other various food items in pewter and sterling silver.  He said he has now expanded to doing custom requests, some of it food others not.

Wonder Wheel model in construction

When asked about his inspiration and how he started sculpting, Herbert told Kinetic Carnival, "My first wooden sculpture was a rocket, it was inspired by the airplane kits I made with my dad as a kid. Designing the Wonder Wheel and Parachute Jump took about a week each and building one takes about a day and a half. It was a pretty difficult process, some parts were tricky to figure out how to make and some parts were tricky to fit together - but most of it is just assembly time because the pieces are all symmetrical".
Wonder Wheel model in construction

The Wonder Wheel and the Parachute Jump sculptures have been placed on Etsy, the Ebay for art. For an additional price, Herbert can illuminate the structures with LED lighting to make it an electrifying and dazzling centerpiece for any Coney Island, Brooklyn, and New York lover.

[More images can be seen at Herbert Hoover's Flickr page.]