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East Rutherford Mayor Takes Cautious Approach to American Dream Project

3-25-13

If the American Dream ever becomes reality in the Meadowlands, it could become one of the biggest malls ever built. The developers of American Dream — Triple Five — have turned to government assistance to line up financing. But at least one local leader has expressed more than a few reservations about getting involved. NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider sat down with East Rutherford mayor James Cassella to discuss his concerns.

The East Rutherford Redevelopment Agency was supposed to have sold roughly $600 million in bonds necessary to raise the total $1.9 billion to complete the stalled American Dream Meadowlands project. But that might not happen because there may not even be an East Rutherford Redevelopment Agency. Cassella said that he, along with several council members, are hesitant about creating such an agency because of the complexities it would entail.

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“I would [have to] appoint some people with confirmations from the council … and it may get a little convoluted,” said Cassella. “Some of the council and myself included feel like we may lose control over what’s going on … and it may hold up things too.”

Maintaining control isn’t the only concern Cassella has. He fears the risk to his borough in issuing non-recourse bonds could be considerable.

“So really it’s like any other stocks that you buy or bonds that you buy. The person that buys them is really on the hook for them. However, what we’re looking at is post-issuance issues that the borough is obligated to do to keep the tax exemption.”

Whether American Dream can go forward without help from the state is much in doubt, according to Cassella.

He said Triple Five, American Dream’s developer, is claiming the project cannot go forth without the government’s support. Cassella added that “if it’s financially beneficial to the town and there is no risk, then we’re fine with [it].”

Cassella said that while the prospects for the project are favorable, American Dream is far from opening anytime soon. It won’t happen this year, he said. And while he doesn’t rule out next year, he thinks it’s highly unlikely that it will open in time for the Super Bowl.

“I would venture to say I’m 99 percent sure that they will not have it operating for the Super Bowl.”