Resident:Stop the Wheel

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 Copyright 2007 South Bergenite Online,

By Corey Klein

Likes his view the way it is

When Lane Biviano purchased a condominium at Station Square in Rutherford, a major selling point was the stellar view of the Manhattan skyline. Bivianoís view might be forever altered once a 320-foot high Ferris Wheel, the largest in the United States, rises above the Meadowlands as part of the Meadowlands Xanadu project.

"I donít think people are aware of this," he said as he pointed out the spot where the mammoth Ferris Wheel will stand.

A newspaper article led Biviano to ask the state if it had approved the Ferris Wheel. After contacting the governorís office, the Department of Community Affairs and the office of Senator Paul Sarlo, Biviano learned the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA) controlled what would be permitted on the site.

He filed an open public records request with the NJSEA and discovered there had been no resolutions specifically approving the construction of the Ferris Wheel, which would tower 120 feet above the 200-foot-tall Snow dome, now under construction.

The NJSEA provided the only two mentions of the Ferris Wheel on record, the 2004 Master Plan and meeting minutes dated July 19, 2007.

The Ferris wheel will be over 30 stories tall, 200 feet wide and have 27 enclosed gondolas, according to comments made by Meadowlands Development President Larry Seigel at the July 19 NJSEA meeting.

Biviano spoke to John Duffy, vice president of Engineering Construction and Regulatory Affairs for the NJSEA, who pointed out where the future location of the Ferris Wheel. According to Biviano, the Ferris Wheel would be built parallel to the Hudson River and block views of Manhattan from 59th street to 45th street for southern Bergen County residents.

"You could walk down almost any street in South Bergen and see the skyline, but that wonít be the case anymore," said Biviano.

Biviano also believes this could have an effect on property values, not only on his condo and others in his building, but across the surrounding area. Currently, a condominium facing the city in Bivianoís building is on sale for $539,000.

While he understands how issues such as these often come up in cities when new construction is planned, he does not feel the Ferris Wheel can be justified. "You can get that view in Greenwood Lake [NY]," he added. "Why put it five-six miles away blocking every view west of the Hackensack River?"

Biviano asked NJSEA president George Zoffinger if the Ferris Wheel would be lit, but Zoffinger could not give him an answer.

"We donít know if itís going to have bright lights Ďtil midnight," he said.

Biviano a Rutherford attorney, has reserved the Web domain name "SaveTheSkyline" and plans to use it to draw attention to what he believes is a problem that has not received attention.

Bivianoís time to gripe about the project may have run out. The NJSEA held a series of public hearings in 2004 about the Xanadu project.

Meadowlands Xanadu will be a 4.8 million-square foot entertainment destination, according to its Web site. It will include interactive entertainment venues, fine dining, outdoor amusements, runway fashion shows and Americaís first snow dome for indoor skiing. The project is scheduled to be completed in fall 2008.

The NJSEA did not provide information regarding permits and approvals needed to build the Ferris Wheel. The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC) does not have zoning jurisdiction over the sports complex and does not regulate height restrictions on the property.

According to NJMC zoning regulations, the Sports Complex zone is "designed to accommodate major spectator and sport and exposition uses under the jurisdiction of the NJSEA," according to the NJSEA Web site.

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