NEW YORK, N.Y. – The New York Giants and New York Jets refiled a lawsuit Thursday to stop developers from expanding a planned $3 billion megamall near MetLife Stadium, placing another roadblock in front of a project that already has endured 10 years of false starts and financial woes.
The action came two weeks after the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority approved a new master plan for the American Dream megamall in the Meadowlands, across the parking lot from MetLife Stadium. That opened the door for the teams to revive a lawsuit they’d filed last year that was dismissed by a state Superior Court judge as being premature because the project hadn’t received official approval.
At issue for the teams is how much additional traffic the mall will produce on days when the Jets and Giants play at home. Giants co-owner John Mara stressed that the teams aren’t out to stop the project completely.
“We are not trying to kill the project; that’s not our endgame,” Mara said Thursday. “What we would like to achieve is a settlement that allows all three of us to thrive. That would have to include some reasonable restrictions on portions of their complex, but not the whole thing, closing, and a parking and traffic management plan that makes sense for both of us.”
The lawsuit filed in state Superior Court in Hackensack claims Edmonton-based developer Triple Five Group and the sports authority violated a 2006 agreement that essentially gave the teams veto power over any modifications to the original design for the mall, known as Xanadu. That version was supposed to open in 2007 but fell prey to the financial downturn and problems with the original developers, and it lay dormant until Triple Five took over in late 2010.
With American Dream, Triple Five plans to expand the original Xanadu footprint by adding a Hollywood-themed amusement park, waterpark and other entertainment features that wouldn’t be subject to local blue laws that require retail stores to be closed on Sundays, Jets owner Woody Johnson said.
In an interview at Johnson’s office in midtown Manhattan on Thursday, Johnson and Mara reiterated to The Associated Press their concerns that traffic at American Dream would have a disastrous effect on fans exiting football games.
According to Mara, about 25,000 cars currently park at MetLife Stadium during a game, causing a level of gridlock that verges on unmanageable when fans all leave at the same time. At a hearing last fall, the teams projected that visitors to American Dream would add approximately 8,000 more cars to the mix on a Sunday, throwing an already precarious situation into chaos.
Mara and Johnson have been negotiating with Triple Five over traffic and parking plans for months without reaching an agreement, and they said Thursday the developer hasn’t budged from its position, a claim a spokesman for the developer denied.
“We’ve made significant concessions, and we’ve made every effort to reach a reasonable settlement,” Triple Five spokesman Alan Marcus said. “(The lawsuit) flies in the face of an exhaustive regulatory process which confirmed that the concerns the teams had expressed were adequately addressed, in terms of traffic.”
Neither side discussed specifics of the negotiations because of a confidentiality order.
At last fall’s hearing, Triple Five produced a study that concluded the traffic impact would be minimal on game days because 12 to 25 per cent of mall visitors would take public transportation and others would opt not to go altogether to avoid traffic.
That’s already a problem for the teams, Mara told the sports authority hearing last fall. He and Johnson estimate several thousand ticketholders per game stay home to avoid traffic and parking headaches.
“We both charge our fans a lot of money to go to the games,” Mara said Thursday. “We don’t want to go back to them and say, ‘We rolled over on this, we caved and we’re going to make it much more difficult for you to get in and out of the stadium.'”