WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
Concerns about potential traffic from the expansion of the former Xanadu mega-mall project at the Meadowland has brought together unusual allies: the Sierra Club, the New York Jets and Giants.
The Jets and Giants, who play at MetLife Stadium — next door to Xanadu, which has been rebranded as “American Dream” — are suing The Triple Five Company and the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority for not consulting with them about, what the teams allege, will be a traffic nightmare.
The teams say that under the terms of a 2006 agreement between the Sports Authority, the teams and the former developers of Xanadu that "any amendments, modifications" related to the Xanadu Project "that would have an adverse effect" on the stadium shall "require the prior written consent" of the teams. The teams also received $15 million in the deal.
"The proposed American Dream, for which the Developers project 55 million annual visits, will go far beyond the proposed and approved Xanadu plans, will clog the complex's already congested transportation networks" and "create a transportation nightmare," the Jets and Giants legal papers assert.
The Triple Five Company, the current developer of the site, said it had to expand the existing vacant mall to include a water park and world class amusement park to make their "American Dream" project viable. Triple Five is now in the permitting stage for the 640,000 square foot addition to the existing two million square foot mega-mall that was built on state land but never opened.
Two developers, the Mills Corporation and Colony Capital had to bale on the mega-mall that was touted as a public private partnership. Behind the scenes subsequent legal wrangling over millions at stake in the complex and beleaguered project still continues.
Sierra Club's Jeff Tittel, a long time Xanadu opponent, sided with the teams and is glad they went to court. "I agree with their suit because quite frankly if that mall is open and there is a game no one is getting to that game."
Triple Five's spokesman Allen Marcus said the teams are just trying to monopolize the site and protect the value of the 200,000 square feet of retail space they are entitled to build on their site.
"Two teams that compete in the national Football League don't want to compete in the marketplace for the hearts and minds of consumers," Marcus told WNYC. "Their lawsuit is a sham. It is frivolous and it's an end run around the regulators."
Marcus says the developers of the mall and the state have already invested more than $450 million in improving traffic flow and access to the site. Improvements include a rail line to the site, the widening Routes 3 and 17, as well as improved access to the New Jersey Turnpike.
A spokeswoman for the Jets and Giants said the teams’ “goal is not to have it litigated but to reach an accommodation."
Pressure to get the project underway has been intense. Prior public statements by the projects’ boosters had projected the mall would be open in time for the 2014 Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium.