via Sierra NJ:

Thursday the Sports and Exposition Authority has scheduled a new vote on granting $1.5 billion of tax-exempt bonds to the developer of American Dream, after a non-profit group threatened to file a law suit to block the sale. The non-profit group has raised red flags about the bond resolutions approval at its Aug. 25 meeting. They state that since the Authority didn’t state the principal terms of the bonds, including interest rates and maturity dates, it violated state law. In addition, they claim that the resolutions failed to explain why the bonds were being sold privately to a Wisconsin agency rather than through a competitive bid process. Lastly, they state concern that the NJSEA failed to give adequate public notice of the Aug. 25 meeting.

 

“The minor adjustments the Sports Authority are making to the bond sale for the American Dream mall are meaningless because this is still an environmental and financial disaster. What they are trying to do is pull the wool over the public eye by making some technical changes. This proposal will still allow the biggest corporate subsidy in state history. This dirty deal is a huge sellout to the taxpayers by approving $1.15 billion in bonds. Instead of paying their fair share of taxes, this deal allows American Dream mall to pay off their bonds in lieu of taxes. That means New Jersey will be losing revenue because the mall will cost essential services,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of The New Jersey Sierra Club. “The American Dream deal is more toxic than a Superfund Site. The Sports Authority were only supposed to build sports facilities, convention centers and football fields. Former DEP Commissioner Richard Sullivan even said there are plenty of places for a mall, the Meadowlands should be a world class sports center, not another mall.”

 

This decision comes after Department of Community Affairs approved a $800 million in bonds sale that would help fund the completion of the $5 billion America Dream Mall. This funding is in addition to the $350 million from the Economic Development Authority tax break given last year totaling $1.15 billion in taxpayer money. This reason the NJSEA and DCA are stepping in is because the Bergen County Improvement Authority had promised to issue the bonds, but would not be able to approve within the 30-60-day window. The shopping and entertainment project is part of the ongoing plan to develop the Meadowlands into a commercialized region.

 

“While New Jersey is broke and going bankrupt, it is shameful that they using public financing for massive project to pave over the Meadowlands. There are 3,000 people who are unemployed because we have failed to fund the Transportation Trust Fund. At the same time, there is no money to fix the lead in our drinking water, build schools, remediate brownfield sites, or fix combined sewer overflow, but there is $1.15 billion for the American Dream mega-mall? If this was such a good project, it would have been built already,” said Jeff Tittel. “They want to gamble in the Meadowlands, but we already gambled with Xanadu and we lost. Banks and financial markets are clearly trying to stay away from this project because it an American Nightmare. The Public Finance Authority in Wisconsin is the conduit for these bonds because they cannot get anyone to manage them here. East Rutherford and Bergen County Improvement Authority both bailed out, now they are getting the Wisconsin Public Finance Authority to sign off on this cheesy deal.”

 

The American Dream itself will significantly increase traffic in the region by opening this area up to more congestion and pollution. The American Dream project, which comprises 7.1 million square feet of office and commercial space, will generate more than 150,000 cars a day, gridlocking an area of the state already overburdened with traffic.  Everyday traffic will be like game day at Giants Stadium proposing to allow gambling here will make this area a traffic nightmare.

 

“What happens to the traffic in the region if on a Saturday people are going to the racetrack, shoppers are coming to the American Dream, and there is a Saturday football game at the Meadowlands? Commuter traffic will be backed up into the Port Authority bus terminal and Route 3 will be a parking lot,” said Jeff Tittel. 

 

The Meadowlands is an oasis of nature being an environmentally sensitive area in one of the most developed places anywhere in the country. In the Meadowlands you can be kayaking between salt grass and then turn the corner to see the New York skyline. There are migratory birds flying over the New Jersey Turnpike. The Meadowlands is a very important environmentally sensitive area in the most densely populated part of the state. Its resources are important for flood control, fisheries, and migratory birds. Even though it has its toxic legacy the contaminated sites and landfills are being cleaned up and it is getting better, but now overdevelopment is a big threat. The wetlands in the Meadowlands should not be paved over for an unnecessary megamall.

 

“The American Dream Mall should really be called the American Scheme. This complex in Meadowlands will add more unnecessary development, pollution and congestion in an already environmentally sensitive and heavily trafficked area. The commuters may be caught between a rock and a Hard Rock when it comes to getting home from work,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Instead of the American Dream, this project should be called the American Scheme.”

 

The meeting will take place on Thursday, September 15th 2016 at 10:00 AM at the Two DeKorte Park Plaza in Lyndhurst, NJ. The agenda can be found here: http://www.njsea.com/njmc/pdfs/meeting/2016/sept-agenda.pdf.

Toni Granato