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Secaucus Mayor Sounds Off on Meadowlands Tax-Sharing Program

Traffic is always an issue in around the Meadowlands where commuters are wondering where their tax dollars are going and worried about the American Dream development. Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli told Managing Editor Mike Schneider that as a mayor of one of the 14 towns in the Meadowlands district, he, too, is concerned about the byproduct of the development, namely traffic.

Gonnelli says that current traffic is already at a standstill whenever the Giants or Jets are in town. “Anytime on game day now you really can’t get out of town. And in fact, anytime after 4 or 5 o’clock it’s difficult to get out of town.”

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With regard to the American Dream development, Gonnelli says state activity in the area is “putting the cart ahead of the horse” when the approval was just made for the amusement and water park and the Mall of America yet to be completed.

The developers of American Dream are currently embroiled in a lawsuit launched by the Giants and the Jets related to traffic issues. Gonnelli says he has not made up his mind about whether to join the suit but that mayors in the region will meet Monday to talk further about the issue.

Revenue sharing, how tax dollars are collected and redistributed, is a sore subject for mayors in the Meadowlands district. Gonnelli says the practice which began in the 1970s needs to be updated when considering the majors changes that have since taken place in all the communities in the district.

“Although the Giants and Jets are for profit, the Meadowlands racetrack is now for profit, obviously Mall of America will be a for profit, none of those facilities pays taxes. If they were to pay taxes … we wouldn’t be sitting here talking about tax sharing.” According to Gonnelli, if those businesses paid their fair share of taxes to the town of East Rutherford, the amount would be approximately $20 million rather than the $5 or 6 million currently paid.

In this regard, he is looking for help from Gov. Chris Christie who he describes as a governor who “likes to tackle some tough problems.” He says he has sent the governor numerous correspondences but has not had the opportunity to speak with him. But he has high marks for the current Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable.

“I have to tell you I have a lot of faith in the man. He seems like somebody who listens, like somebody that is really concerned,” praised Gonnelli. “It’s a pretty complicated issue.”