ATLANTIC CITY — A Staten Island, New York man picked the $14 million Observation Wheel at Steel Pier here Saturday as the place to tell his girlfriend he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.

The proposal of Neil Calise, 43, to Crystal Kaye, 35, of Brooklyn, New York, was the first one to take place at the 227-foot high Observation Wheel since it opened Dec. 26.

Steel Pier’s Observation Wheel is the third largest in the country.

“I thought I was taking a walk on the Boardwalk,” said Kaye, who added she knew she was riding the Observation Wheel with her parents and her boyfriend. “I didn’t know all this nonsense was happening. I had no idea. … I said, ‘What the hell is going on?’”

The setup was Kaye and Calise were meeting her parents, Bob and Dotty Kaye, who have been married for 44 years, to take an enclosed car ride on the Observation Wheel.

When Kaye and Calise arrived at about 2 p.m., Kaye was not expecting to also see a couple of long-stem red roses, a bottle of Korbel champagne and two photographers already inside the gondola waiting for her along with her parents.

Kaye put her hand over mouth as she was taking it all in. Tears started flowing shortly thereafter.

After Kaye and Calise sat down, the gondola door closed, and they rode the Observation Wheel for the next 16 minutes. During that time, Calise gave her the engagement ring.

The couple has been talking about exchanging vows during either the last weekend of September or the first weekend of October of this year, but Calise had not given Kaye an engagement ring.

They met online and been dating for the past 2½ years.

During the past summer, Calise came up with the idea of proposing to Kaye on the Observation Wheel. They had seen it under construction. The couple rode it for the first time on its opening day.

On a scale of 1 to 10, Calise said the reality of proposing earned a score of 11, compared to how it played out in his head.

“The weather was beautiful,” said Calise, who ended up with a sunny day with temperatures in the 50s.

Even though are plenty of romantic places in New York City to stage a wedding proposal, the New York couple individually and together have a great deal of affection for this resort that started in their childhoods.

Calise said he has been coming to the resort since he was 17. Kaye said her grandmother started bringing her when she was 9 years old when she visited the Showboat during its casino days.

The couple come to the resort at least once a month.

“Unfortunately, it (the resort) has not been doing well lately, so I wanted to kind of bring something back to it, to maybe kick start some kind of positive influence,” Calise said.

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Contact: 609-272-7202


Twenty years as a staff writer in the features department, specializing in entertainment and the arts at The Press of Atlantic City.

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