This place can't catch break. Now the New York Jets and New York Giants have filed an injunction to halt the construction
Their contention is that 100-200 cars traveling to the park on game days will impede the traffic flow for the 40,000 cars driven by Jets/Giants fans causing safety and convenience issues. But their real gripe seems to be that they want to expand into the retail spaces in the future.
Football officials want water, amusement park stopped Monday June 25, 2012, 5:37 PM BY KELLY NICHOLAIDES STAFF WRITER
East Rutherford - The battle between two NFL teams and the developer of a stalled $3.7 billion entertainment complex is heating up.
Giants and Jets officials, concerned with an increase in traffic due to a proposed amusement and water park for American Dream Mall, have filed an injunction to stop construction.
Lawyers for the New York Jets and New York Giants filed an injunction on June 22 aiming to block Triple Five from resuming construction of American Dream Meadowlands-citing traffic impacts from the yet to be approved water park and amusement park portions of the project on game days. The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) issued a major access permit to Triple Five on May 9. The permit means the developer does not have to do additional traffic studies for the added portions of the project, since it would only generate just under 200 or more peak time hourly traffic trips than the rest of the project, officials said.
East Rutherford Mayor James Cassella slammed the two teams for being "greedy" and "selfish" and putting their interests ahead of taxpayers.
"American Dream Meadowlands will bring union construction jobs and thousands of retails jobs to people every day of the week, not just on Sundays," Cassella said. "These are many of the same people who pay thousands of dollars to buy Personal Seat Licenses (PSLs) for Giants and Jets, just to have the chance to see a game. These are the same people who buy Giants and Jets paraphernalia, and the two teams want to deny them the right to earn a living."
Cassella questioned the teams' allegiance to the state. He noted that the region needs jobs and the state needs the tax revenue. "The Giants and Jets have gotten tax breaks. Now they want more preferential treatment that would deny jobs and millions of dollars in sales tax income. I have never seen corporations act so selfishly. The teams were never concerned about traffic congestion when they were building...now they have traffic problems all of a sudden. This shows a lot about these teams, who refuse to acknowledge New Jersey and continue to throw roadblock. The bottom line is they exploit New Jersey, they have no allegiance to the state."
Complicating matters, the Borough of East Rutherford has been locked in a battle with the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA), which oversees the sports complex, since 2010, over taxes, and has yet to introduce a 2012 budget. A tax court judge has reserved judgment regarding whether the Giants will have to pay $1.5 million in annual taxes on the $100 million Timex training facility. Currently, the Giants pay $5 million a year ground lease to the NJSEA for the new stadium and Timex facility; and $1.3 million towards Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) fees, a total of $6.3 million. In turn, the NJSEA gives the borough $6.3 million in PILOT fees annually for the entire sports complex. This figure represents approximately 21 percent of the borough's tax revenue.
In response to the injunction filed by lawyers for the two teams, Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan said that she will take steps to review tax breaks given to the two football teams, and that the teams are attempting to create a business monopoly. Donovan said that her administration will explore with East Rutherford officials their ongoing litigation against the NJSEA. She noted that she will also review independent action to require the teams to pay taxes on the sale of Personal Seat Licenses (PSLs). Donovan said that she will consider taking legal action against the tax breaks given to the New York Jets for their training facility in Florham Park, Morris County, as well.
"Since 1976 the Giants and later the Jets have not paid a dime in taxes to Bergen County. Now they have built and own a $1.6 billion building and they still don't pay any taxes to Bergen County. That's wrong and it needs to be corrected," said Donovan.
In addition, Donovan has directed the County Police to take steps to assure the safety of fans arriving and departing MetLife Stadium on game days. Currently, state police patrol the area, but sources say the county will soon take over.
"The New York Giants and New York Jets cite the safety and convenience of their fans as a veiled excuse for their frivolous lawsuit designed to give them a monopoly at the Sports Complex," Donovan said.
In their lawsuit, the New York teams rely on a 'cooperation agreement' which was agreed to, not negotiated, by former (acting) Governor Dick Codey.
"I described that so-called agreement as a give-away then and do so again today," Donovan said. "According to the New York teams, that agreement allows them to hold development rights to build themed dining and team and other stores."
Lawyers for the two teams did not return calls at press time.
As usual, my analysis is free of charge! Original enough to not steal someone else's quote as a signature
The Hollywood studio DreamWorks Animation has struck a deal to bring Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and other animated movie characters to a planned amusement park as part of a revived entertainment and retail mall in the New Jersey Meadowlands.
It would be the first theme park based on the studio’s animated movies since DreamWorks’s earlier plans for parks in China, Abu Dhabi and Dubai failed to work out.
DreamWorks has sought to capitalize on the huge popularity of its films, much as Disney and Universal Studios have in the United States, Europe and Asia. The indoor theme park would include rides, attractions and a glass-enclosed wave pool incorporating characters from the studio’s movies.
The partnership between the developer, Triple Five, and DreamWorks is a rare bit of good news for a site that has sat vacant and unfinished since May 2009, when the previous developers ran out of money after spending $1.9 billion on a five-story complex just west of Manhattan, near MetLife Stadium, called Xanadu.
In a statement Tuesday evening, Jeffrey Katzenberg, chief executive of DreamWorks Animation, confirmed the deal, saying the theme park would involve the studio’s “characters, storytelling and technology in a unique and innovative family entertainment experience.”
Triple Five, the developer of the Mall of America, has renamed the project American Dream and drawn up plans to make it even bigger, with nearly 1.7 million square feet of retail space, an indoor ski hill, indoor sky diving, bowling, an aquarium, a live theater and the 14.7-acre amusement park.
But the project continues to be dogged by delays. In announcing a tentative agreement between the current owners and Triple Five in May 2011, Gov. Chris Christie said he expected the developer to strike a deal with the owners and get financing for the project by the end of 2011 so that American Dream could be open for the 2014 Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium. But executives working with Triple Five now say that $1.75 billion in financing will not be completed until October and that the complex will not open until September 2014, seven months after the Super Bowl.
Triple Five, which is owned by the Ghermezian family, has built two of the world’s largest and most successful entertainment malls. But the company faces special challenges in the Meadowlands, the least of which are the local blue laws that prohibit retail activity on Sundays.
Many retailers say they are reluctant to get involved with the project because of its troubled history. “There were enough false starts that retailers want to see some substance,” said Ron DeLuca, a partner at R. J. Brunelli & Company, which represents a roster of retailers who had signed leases at Xanadu. “Until American Dream becomes a reality,” he said, “it is difficult to get retailers to make hard commitments.”
The Jets and Giants, which both use MetLife Stadium, filed a lawsuit last month seeking to block construction of the project, saying it threatens to “clog the complex’s already congested transportation networks” on game days, when 80,000 fans converge on the stadium.
The State Transportation Department approved the project, however, and Triple Five moved on Tuesday to dismiss the suit.
The deal with DreamWorks provides the project with some Hollywood cachet and underscores Triple Five’s emphasis on entertainment.
Entertainment conglomerates like DreamWorks say they view theme parks as a way to expand revenues for an industry buffeted by piracy, flagging DVD sales and a drop in network television viewers.
The theme park industry is slow growing in North America, said John Robinett, senior vice president of economics for the Themed Entertainment Association, although the recent creation of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction at Universal Studios in Florida and a $1 billion makeover tied to “Cars” characters at Disney’s California Adventure park in Los Angeles have raised attendance substantially.
Triple Five is hoping DreamWorks can do the same in the Meadowlands, where it says it hopes to attract 55 million visitors annually. But that may be easier in Minnesota or West Edmonton, Canada, where Triple Five already operates.
“Not only does northern New Jersey not lack for shopping malls; there are a lot of destination attractions,” said David L. Malmouth, a developer in San Diego and a former Disney executive. “Manhattan is a pretty compelling theme park in its own right.”
Change the scheme, Alter the mood! Electrify the boys and girls if you would be so kind!
The long-dormant American Dream Meadowlands project is on the verge of receiving final environmental approvals for its proposed indoor water and amusement parks, a federal environmental official said Thursday.
The addition of the parks is seen by executives for project developer Triple Five as crucial to turning the entertainment and retail project into a successful tourist destination.
Still standing in the way of revival of a development that was first approved by the state in 2003 are two seemingly daunting obstacles: a legal challenge by the Giants and Jets over concerns about game-day gridlock at the Meadowlands Sports Complex, and securing a $2 billion public/private financing package to complete the project.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Kenneth Wells said that an "initial preferred permit" had recently been sent to would-be developer Triple Five, and that the federal agency was simply waiting for the developer to review and sign the permit.
"The permitting is literally almost done, so that part is behind us," said Wayne Hasenbalg, the president of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, the landlord of the sports complex.
The Giants and Jets filed suit against the American Dream developers in June, saying the added water and amusement parks created a vastly different project plan from the one the teams had approved in 2006. While the retail section of the project is expected to be closed on Sundays due to the Bergen County blue laws, the teams say that the water and amusement parks will attract thousands of additional visitors on football Sundays.
At a sports authority meeting held at The Meadowlands Racetrack in October, the Giants and Jets presented a traffic study estimating that an additional 7,700 cars would be on the sports complex roads in the first hour following the end of a typical Sunday 1 p.m. game. About 20,000 to 25,000 cars typically park at the sports complex for football games.
But Triple Five's traffic study instead concluded that the parks would add only 63 more cars at the complex at that hour, as local residents would be wise enough to avoid the grounds at that time and most tourists would take the rail link to the MetLife Stadium site rather than drive.
Superior Court Judge Peter Doyne dismissed the main portion of the teams' lawsuit in August because he said that it was filed prematurely. Doyne said the Giants and Jets can refile should the sports authority board approve a final version of the master plan that was unacceptable to the teams.
Hasenbalg said that his staff has had "a lot of back and forth" discussions with both Triple Five and the two National Football League teams in recent weeks.
"We hope to achieve some level of compromise that would allow us to avoid going back to court," Hasenbalg said. "If you go back there, you're potentially talking about a lot of discovery, and that can take a lot of time. I'm still optimistic."
Hasenbalg said that the sports authority "is nearing the conclusion, hopefully in the very near future" of evaluating the traffic studies and other analysis submitted by the teams and by the developers. But he would not comment on whether the agency's board would be asked to vote on Triple Five's revised master plan at next week's board meeting.
Governor Christie has expressed enthusiastic support for the project. He backs the notion of allowing American Dream to qualify for up to a $400 million reduction in the total amount of state taxes paid over a span of up to 20 years.
Triple Five spokesman Alan Marcus said that "we make progress every day on this project" while declining to offer specifics. Giants and Jets spokeswoman Karen Kessler also did not offer a comment.
Change the scheme, Alter the mood! Electrify the boys and girls if you would be so kind!
In other words: the Giants and Jets want money for the developer. I'm sure they'll come to some sort of settlement. I also agree with the train comment in the article: when myself & Dan visited for the USC/Syracuse game, we took the train everywhere (including to the game).
At a gala press conference in May 2011, Governor Christie introduced a new team of developers who would take over the moribund project once known as Meadowlands Xanadu, and said that their expanded version of the shopping and entertainment complex would be open in time for the February 2014 Super Bowl to be held at MetLife Stadium.
Just six months later, though, an executive with the developer, Triple Five, said such a timetable would be “no easy task” — and months after that, that schedule was officially scrapped. It was just another in a seemingly endless series of delayed debuts for a project that has gone on for a decade, eaten through billions of dollars, and is not yet close to completion.
Then late last month, Christie stood before an admiring crowd of unionized laborers and predicted that the project, now called American Dream Meadowlands, would be revived this month.
“Here I’m looking at the men and women who are going to take that thing and turn it from ugly and into a job machine for the men and women of New Jersey,” Christie said, after securing their union’s endorsement in his bid for reelection this year.
In the past decade, officials have predicted nearly a dozen different opening dates for the project, starting with 2005. The arrival of 2013 marks a third consecutive New Year’s Day with the dormant project — and its much-reviled exterior — standing as a garish symbol of a stagnant economy
Since new developer Triple Five appeared on the scene publicly in mid-2011, there has been progress on permitting and repeated indications of an imminent financial deal with the state. But to date, no formal contract has been struck that binds the state and the developer to each other.
But this time, it looks as if a project that has spanned the administrations of four governors might finally be moving toward a finish line after all.
A resumption of construction at the site in the Meadowlands Sports Complex would be a significant boost to the economy of the state, according to James Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.
“In the short term, the construction industry desperately needs jobs, and that project would provide a major infusion of dollars from salary, wages, income,” Hughes said. “It’s sorely needed in that regard. If it were to be successful, that would be a big deal.”
If American Dream lives up to its billing, it would add an international destination to the landscape of North Jersey — a sprawling shopping and recreation venue sitting just miles from midtown Manhattan.
Triple Five estimates that a completion of the project would yield more than 9,000 on-site construction jobs and another 10,000 jobs via suppliers and other off-site partners, according to paperwork it filed with the state.
More than 11,000 permanent jobs would be created, the officials estimated — at the 200 or more planned shops and at the recreation components, including indoor amusement and water parks Triple Five wants to add to the site.
Christie’s is not the only voice predicting an imminent revival of American Dream.
Jon F. Hanson — a former chairman of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority whom Christie entrusted to help close the deal — is usually far more measured in his tone than the governor. But Hanson, too, says change is at hand.
“It is also my understanding that we could commence construction in January,” Hanson said recently. “We are all anxious to see everyone come back to work.”
Neither Christie nor Hanson offered explanations for their optimism, but it appears to be contagious.
Anthony Scardino of Lyndhurst, a longtime sports authority board member and former state Meadowlands Commission executive director, said recently: “It’s definitely going to happen. We’re closer now than we’ve ever been.”
And on Thursday, state Senate President Stephen Sweeney said he believed a revival was in the offing. “The governor told me that he expects it pretty much any day, and I believe him,” the Camden County Democrat told The Record’s Editorial Board.
Despite the recent buzz about a looming restart to the project, details about the contract between American Dream and the state have been scarce as both the developer and public officials have remained tight-lipped. It is not known, for instance, if the financing structure currently under discussion varies from the broad outlines laid out by the developer over a year ago.
‘I hope it happens’
But even staunch supporters of the project have become resigned to delays.
State Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Wood-Ridge, said that American Dream has been stalled for so long that he doesn’t even think about it much anymore.
“I hope it happens because of all the jobs at stake, but there still seem to be a lot of obstacles still,” Sarlo said. “You’ve got a large public financing package involved, and we don’t know what the details are.”
Jim Kirkos, the president of the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce, said he remains optimistic that American Dream will move forward, even if it happens at a slower pace than he would have liked.
“For them not to be open in time for the Super Bowl is a great disappointment for guys like me who wanted to showcase everything Meadowlands while the Super Bowl is in town,” Kirkos said. “But ultimately, American Dream is about changing the game forever, and not just when the big game is here.”
In at least one instance, the delays have caused problems that go beyond mere disappointment. Officials in East Rutherford are blaming a recent tax increase — an average of $300 per taxpayer — partly on additional police salaries and other expenses incurred as a result of relying on promised opening dates that came and went.
East Rutherford Mayor James Cassella said that he believes the payments in lieu of taxes paid by the owners of the project to the borough — which under the current agreement would ultimately reach nearly $10 million a year — make American Dream a good deal for residents. But he added that there is resentment in town over American Dream’s part in the recent property-tax hike.
“We try to be a good soldier, but nobody seems to want to work with us until they need something — and then we’re the old pal being asked to do this, or do that,” Cassella said, adding that any collaboration with Triple Five in a financing deal could run into some resistance from the Borough Council.
In late 2011, the developer met with the Editorial Board of The Record and laid out how it planned to come up with the $1.8 billion it said was needed to complete the project, which has already cost two failed developers and their investors nearly $2 billion.
Triple Five would put in $200 million in equity, with another $800 million from the private sector and $800 million via two public entities.
Hundreds of millions would come from public bonds backed with future payments in lieu of taxes paid to East Rutherford by the developer. Triple Five executive Tony Armlin said the borough or any other public entity that issued the bonds would incur no risk by doing so.
And American Dream developers could be entitled to almost $400 million from the state Economic Development Authority, through a program that allows developers to pay just one-fourth of their sales and corporate business taxes until they have recouped 20 percent of the cost of the new development.
The project, adjacent to the Izod Center, has been virtually dormant since a key lender pulled its financing in March 2009. That halt followed years of delays and the collapse of original developer Mills Corp. in 2006. Creditors took the keys from the second developer, Colony Capital, in mid-2010, and still retain that control today.
Triple Five, which has promised to make over the exterior, has received environmental and other permits to add a 638,000-square-foot indoor amusement and water park to the complex. Last summer it also announced a partnership with DreamWorks Animation that would bring movie characters such as Shrek and Kung Fu Panda to the site.
There are a lot of things that have to happen for the project to get back in full swing.
With American Dream’s environmental permitting approvals finally wrapping up, sports authority president Wayne Hasenbalg said the next step is for his board to give final approval to a revised master plan that includes the amusement and water park. He said that approval could come at the next board meeting on Jan. 17.
The project also faces a formidable obstacle in the form of legal action that could be filed by the Jets and Giants, the owners of the neighboring MetLife Stadium. The teams sued in June to stop the project over game-day concerns, only to be told by a Superior Court judge to come back to court if they were dissatisfied with the terms of the board’s final approval. Hasenbalg said state officials have been in talks with representatives of the teams to try to negotiate a compromise.
Triple Five and the NFL teams have declined to comment on the status of the project or a possible deal. But even if agreements and financing are imminent, all parties acknowledge that it is too late for a remodeled American Dream to be open in time for the Jersey Super Bowl.
Triple 5’s financing package would also need to be finalized, and approvals won from the involved public agencies. Hasselbalg said that appears to be nearly in place.
Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said that Christie — riding a wave of popularity for his performance in November in the wake of the damage caused by superstorm Sandy — should not expect the status of American Dream to be at the forefront of a re-election campaign.
“Statewide, there isn’t that much awareness of the impact of it either way,” Murray said. “And even the people who drive by it probably hardly notice it anymore, even with the garish colors.”
Murray also said that the Xanadu/American Dream saga has lasted so long that its faults and controversies “can’t be laid on anyone’s doorstep.”
A moving target
Construction work on the project once know as Meadowlands Xanadu began nearly a decade ago, but has been at a halt since 2009. Here’s a look at key dates offered by various developers and state officials over the life of the entertainment and retail project at the Sports Complex in East Rutherford.
February 2003 — The Sports Authority board approves the Mills Co.’s $1.3 billion plan for the redevelopment of the sports complex arena site. Projected opening: Sometime in 2005.
October 2004 — Outgoing Gov. James McGreevey signs a 75-year ground lease with Mills. Projected opening: “Should be complete in about two years,” the governor’s office says.
August 2005 — After the Giants go to Superior Court in Bergen County seeking to prevent Xanadu from being open on game days, Xanadu officials express “shock” at the legal maneuver. Projected opening: “Late 2007,” the company says.
November 2006 — Colony Capital, a private investment firm, takes the reins from struggling Mills and promises a capital influx of an additional $1.5 billion to complete the project. Projected opening: “Late 2008,” according to a Colony Capital press release.
May 2008 — Officials blame “complex construction for several unique tenants” for another delay. Projected opening: Midsummer 2009.
March 2009 — Sports authority Chairman Carl Goldberg sets out a new timetable. Projected opening: “March or April 2010.”
April 2009 — Officials announce that construction of a 286-foot “Pepsi Globe” Ferris wheel is on hold. Projected opening: Not before August 2010.
July 2010 — With Colony Capital fading from the scene, Jon F. Hanson, a key adviser to Governor Christie, recommends a makeover of the exterior, as well as state-issued tax-exempt bonds to help make the project appealing to new potential investors. Projected opening: 2012.
May 2011 — Christie holds a lavish press conference announcing that Triple Five, the operators of the Mall of America in Minnesota, was taking over at the site. Projected opening: “Late 2013,” according to Triple Five Vice President Paul Ghermezian. That would have been before the February 2014 Super Bowl at neighboring MetLife Stadium.
November 2011 — Triple Five executive Tony Armlin tells The Record’s Editorial Board that he hopes to submit an application for a tax break of up to $400 million dollars to the state “by December or January.” Construction could resume as soon as spring 2012. Projection: Armlin says opening before the Super Bowl would be “no easy task.”
February 2012 —Wayne Hasenbalg, the new president of the sports authority, says the indoor water and amusement parks Triple Five wants to add to the site are critical to the company’s plans to lure tourists. Projection: Those elements will not be ready in time for the Super Bowl.
March 2012 — Christie, in Atlantic City celebrating the opening of the $2.4 billion Revel casino, declares that negotiations between the state and Triple Five were “in the final throes.” Projection: Construction would soon resume.
June 2012 — Projection: A Triple Five spokesman acknowledges that no part of the project will be open in time for the Super Bowl.
December 2012 — Christie addresses a crowd of unionized laborers. Projection: Work will resume on the project in January 2013, the governor says.
Artist rendering of the newly revived American Dream Meadowlands project from developer Triple Five.
Change the scheme, Alter the mood! Electrify the boys and girls if you would be so kind!
Ghermezian Brothers Reach Transit & Road Improvement Agreements For American Dream Mall : NFL Teams Drop Objections
Last September the Ghermezian brothers from Edmonton, Canada took ownership of a partially completed, but empty and basically derelict, mega-mall outside Rutherford New Jersey, just across the river from Manhattan.
Last week they inked two complicated, but important, agreements that remove the last barriers to starting construction, so they can finally finish the mall.
The goal of the Ghermezian’s company Triple Five is to restore, complete and substantially improve the original concept for the mall, which had been a major casualty of the 2008 recession, and to make it one of the finest destination malls anywhere in the world. The name of the reconceived mall will be American Dream Meadowlands Mall.
It will have 5 million square feet of rentable space when it is finished, with its own indoor skating rink, indoor ski hill and even a large performing arts centre for lavish entertainment programs. Dreamworks will brand an amusement park and water attraction at the mall as well.
However the new mall is located right beside the Meadowlands Sports Complex, with its MetLife branded football stadium, which is home to both the New York Jets and the New York Giants NFL teams. They have not been happy with the proximity of the new mall, and especially of the additional amusement park now added to the concept, and have worried that the impact of all the traffic on game days might seriously deter its sports fans from coming.
Even though existing local shopping laws would restrict retail parts of the mall from opening on Sundays, these would not apply to the amusement park itself. Also one can well imagine that if the mall becomes a great success, pressures will build to permit eventual Sunday opening as well – which would certainly be the “thin edge of the wedge” for the two football teams therefore.
After a lengthy game of hardball over who pays, the New Jersey Transit and the State Turnpike Authority have agreed to improve access to and from the Meadowlands Sports Complex as part of a deal reached earlier this week between the Giants and Jets, and Triple Five, the developer of the American Dream project, to withdraw their objections to the mall.
Already last November the State of New Jersey approved a package of state tax breaks totaling US$390 million to support the new project. Then in December the Borough Council of the town of East Rutherford approved the elements of a deal after which the town will have the authority to issue US$550 million of municipal bonds to help pay for it as well.
So with the transportation agreement now in place everything now looks good to go.
Triple five’s two existing mega-malls, one in Edmonton and one in Minneapolis, each already get 70 million visitors a year and this new third one, now renamed American Dream Meadowlands, will become America’s largest shopping centre when it is finished.
There is already a rapid train service direct to Meadowlands from Manhattan with its own station at Medowlands. There will now be a major upgrading of train service, and improvements will be made to road access to and from the turnpike,.
Accordingly the Ghermezians will undoubtedly seek to bring boatloads of visitors from New York over to their new destination mall, both to shop and to be entertained.
Garth Drabinsky, the famous live theatre impresario who produced Phantom of the Opera and many other famous shows before spending some time in jail for fraud, is already unofficially said to be consulting for the Ghermezians on creating the new live theatre in the mall as a world class venue, and one capable of competing head on with Broadway.
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