American Dream Gets a Financial Shot in the Arm

By David Cruz

OK maybe it’s not the ugliest building in the world any more (or maybe it still is) but it’s definitely one of the costliest projects of its kind in North Jersey. And today the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority approved two resolutions that supporters say will make the American Dream finally come true.

“I do think it’s going to have an incredible impact in this economy, not only with the local jobs, but it makes northern New Jersey a primary destination where, right now, we’re just a less expensive alternative for people coming to see New York and they stay in our hotels,” said Meadowlands Regional Chamber CEO Jim Kirkos. “We’ll give them a reason to spend their discretionary dollars here in New Jersey.”

Commissioners voted to float two bonds for a total $1.5 billion. The bonds will be non-recourse bonds, which supporters say will ensure that investors, not taxpayers, will be on the hook if the project fails. That’s true, says one critic, but the deal still stinks for the people of New Jersey.

“The bottom line with this project is that these bonds are essentially going to be paid by sales tax revenue that is supposedly going to come when this mall is built and that’s money that would otherwise be going into the state coffers,” said Bruno Tedeschi, who represents the New Jersey Alliance for Fiscal Integrity. “That’s not going to be there any more for future taxpayers.”

Secaucus resident Donald Evanson said all the rosy projections are overly optimistic and fail to take into account what impact the project will have on the rest of the towns nearby.

“If the American Dream is successful on the retail side, numerous restaurants are planned, after all the folks who have such a good time will have to eat. When they do, neighboring restaurants … will probably lose business. When you lose business, you lay off workers,” he said.

Naysayers, according to American Dream boosters, who see jobs and economic activity that will inject new life into a Meadowlands region that has lost an arena, a basketball and hockey team. East Rutherford Mayor James Cassella says his town is going to see a windfall — about $25 million in the first year of operation — so he has no choice but to back the project.

“This will get this project started,” he said. “Hopefully, the bonds are issued in the next month or so and for East Rutherford, who I represent, it’s a great financial plus for us because if you remember, we were going to be the ones to issue the bonds, but now we don’t have to deal with that but we receive all the financial benefits.”

At 12 years and counting, the project once known as Xanadu has taken a long time to become the stately pleasure dome developers and state officials have predicted, but this infusion of cash, they hope, will take the place from mythological eyesore to actual economic engine.