New York Wheel construction stalls on Staten Island amid legal dispute

Plans for the massive New York Wheel are up in the air after a new lawsuit alleges that the designer and builder have ceased operations and threatened to ditch the project.

New York Wheel Owner LLC, which was tapped to develop what has been billed as the tallest observation wheel in the Western Hemisphere, filed a suit in Manhattan Federal Court last month alleging that the designer and builder, Mammoet-Starneth, stopped working on the project near the Staten Island ferry terminal.

The wheel’s estimated cost has increased from $230 million to $590 million, according to the Staten Island Advance, which first reported the lawsuit. Since the city and its Economic Development Corporation announced plans for the wheel in 2012, the attraction’s debut has been pushed back from the end of 2015 to the spring of 2018.

In the lawsuit, New York Wheel Owner LLC claimed Mammoet-Starneth kept raising their price beyond the agreed upon $145 million sum and caused extensive delays.

“The [Mammoet-Starneth team] has boxed itself in and made its intentions clear: it simply does not want to perform the agreement any longer unless it receives far more money than the contract price, even though — by its own account — it is the only entity who can perform this agreement,” the suit says.

Mammoet-Starneth said in court papers that it never received required payments from New York Wheel Owner LLC.

The developer disputed this characterization, saying in court papers that Mammoet-Starneth failed to submit the paperwork needed to receive these payments. That allowed Mammoet-Starneth to fabricate a scenario of nonpayment and demand another $20 million, the lawsuit claimed.

A spokesperson for Mammoet-Starneth declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Despite the dispute, New York Wheel Owner LLC is optimistic the issue will get sorted out, according to its spokesperson, Cristyne Nicholas.

“While it is not uncommon for contractors to engage in such tactics, we are confident that this issue will get satisfactorily resolved, through negotiation or through the court action that the developer has filed,” Nicholas said in a statement.

Ryan Birchmeier, a spokesperson for the New York City Economic Development Corporation, said the EDC hoped the project would not be further delayed.

“New York Wheel is a transformational investment that will drive economic growth and opportunity in Staten Island,” Birchmeier said in a statement. “It is critical that construction continue to deliver this long awaited project for the community.”