Some late wheeling and dealing Tuesday resulted in a surprising agreement that assures final approval for Staten Island’s largest development project since the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge: a huge Ferris wheel and massive outlet mall near the borough’s ferry terminal in St. George. While full details have not been disclosed, Crain’s has learned that the broad strokes of the deal signal a clear win for both organized labor and Councilwoman Debi Rose.
Developer BFC Partners has, according to sources, agreed to offer the entire construction of its Empire Outlets project, which will entail 1 million square feet of mixed-use space anchored by an outlet shopping center, to unionized labor. That agreement would constitute a dramatic about-face for BFC while also clearing the final hurdle of a two-pronged land-use application to dramatically reshape Staten Island’s St. George waterfront.
Because of a City Council decision, Brooklyn-based BFC found the Empire Outlets’ fate in the council tied to that of the New York Wheel, whose well-healed developer agreed early on to build with 100% union labor. What will be the world’s tallest observation Ferris wheel, adjacent to the shopping center, will be largely constructed off-site before being erected on the waterfront. Combined, the two projects will represent roughly $580 million in private investment and attract what its supporters claim will be 4 million new visitors a year to the area. Empire Outlets is to consist of 80 stores, generally higher-end retailers.