HARLEM, Manhattan (PIX11) — The Harlem waterfront could be getting a big boost from some new tourist attractions that are in the works.
About a decade ago, New York City spent tens of millions of dollars on building a pier along the Hudson River. But aside from the views, there isn’t much to do at the West Harlem Piers at 125th Street.
Gary Johnson and Michael Preston want to change that. The longtime friends have teamed up for the first minority-owned tour operation in the city. The Harlem Rocket, a 93-passenger highspeed boat will launch from the West Harlem Piers.
“One of the goals of the Harlem Rocket is to make sure that kids get introduced to the history and culture of the northern Manhattan waterfront, as well as maritime opportunities,” said Johnson, founder and CEO of Paradise Express Ferry, which will operate the Harlem Rocket.
The high-speed tour boat is part of their Harlem Gateway Waterfront Initiative, which aims to transform the pier into a premier tourist destination. While the Harlem Rocket has already received approval from New York City, the developers also have plans to build a Ferris Wheel and a maritime training center and museum.
The museum would take over a Department of Sanitation building that has not been used since 1999. The space would be used to teach visitors about the contributions of people of color to the maritime industry and train future generations in the field. Johnson said it would be a game changer for Harlem.
“Local residents and local businesses owners can own shops, can open retail stores along the waterfront, and invigorate this community the way that Chelsea, the Seaport and the Brooklyn waterfront has been reinvigorated. We believe this is the new face of Harlem for the next century,” he said.
However, some people told PIX11 they need to know more about the plan before they get on board.
“A Ferris wheel? This is not Coney Island. I don’t like that,” said one resident.
Cameron Esch, who visits the pier weekly, said the community should be given the opportunity to weigh in on the project.
“It would be great to hear from people who have lived in this community for decades and generations. I think that often is when voices get lost and people get frustrated especially in a neighborhood like Harlem,” Esch said.
The developers say they will soon present their idea of the Ferris wheel and museum to the community board with the hope of gaining approval. They will fund most of the project themselves but do want the city to build another pier and spruce up the existing one if the proposal gets the green light.