War Over Meadowlands Mall Heats Up

     HACKENSACK, N.J. (CN) – Legal war continues over the Meadowlands “American Dream” mall project, with the developer claiming the NFL’s Giants and Jets are waging an “ongoing campaign to delay, thwart, and ultimately prevent the project from ever opening, in order that the Teams and their affiliates can maintain their lucrative monopoly over the Sports Complex.”
     Ameream LLC sued the New York Football Giants, The New York Jets, the New Meadowlands Stadium Co. and the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA), in Bergen County Court. It also sued two of the teams’ affiliates, Giants Stadium LLC and Jets Stadium Development LLC.
     Ameream, the new developer of the American Dream project formerly known as Xanadu, put expansion plans together last year for the long-stalled project. They include a glass-domed amusement park with year-round roller coasters, a water park and aquarium. This was in addition to several aspects of the partly built Xanadu project, including an indoor ski jump, which would make the planned complex a total of about 7.5 million square feet.
     The new lawsuit is the latest chapter in the long legal history for the project. One year ago, the Giants and Jets sued the developers of American Dream, claiming the expansion of the project violated an agreement the teams had when they built their new stadium in 2009, which “expressly provides that the Stadium Entities consented to the specific agreements and plans for the development, construction and operation of the ‘Xanadu Project’ in place at that time, but that any amendments, modifications and/or waivers with respect to the Xanadu Project that would have an adverse effect on the development, use or operation of [rights related to development construction and operation of MetLife Stadium, as well as certain other related development rights] shall require the prior written consent of the Stadium Entities.”
     A judge dismissed that complaint in August 2012, ruling that that the teams’ suit was premature because the complex’s new developers, Triple Five, had yet to complete plans or gain approval for its proposed expansions.
     The judge said the teams could revisit their suit if the NJSEA approved the plans for the parks.
     The NJSEA did exactly that in May this year, shortly after which the teams renewed their previous lawsuit. That case is still pending.
     It is that case that the developers seek to dismiss.
     American Dream’s developers claim in the new, 45-page complaint that the very agreement the teams cite in their lawsuit undermines their case.
     “In that Agreement, in exchange for a lump sum of $15 million and other valuable consideration, including their ability to build MetLife Stadium without objection or opposition from the Project’s developers, the Teams (a.) Agreed to ‘consent to and waive any objections’ to the Project; (b.) Agreed to ‘cooperate with [the Project’s Developer] and… support [the Project Developer’s] efforts to obtain any permits and other approvals necessary in connection with the … Project that are not inconsistent with this Agreement’; (c.) Agreed that they would not bring any lawsuit claiming that the Project was incompatible with their rights relating to MetLife Stadium without first paying back the $15 million lump sum; and (d.) Agreed that to prevail in any such lawsuit, they would have to demonstrate that (1) ‘traffic and fan ingress to and egress from the Sports Complex on Sunday [NFL] Game Days that, as a result of the operation of the … Project, are worse than experienced on average at the Sports Complex during the 2004 NFL regular season on Game Days’ and/or (2) that the Project’s developers had failed to provide the parking required by the Cooperation Agreement, which never happened,” according to the complaint.
     The developer claims that the teams “have reneged on all of these agreements, while retaining all of the benefits they obtained in exchange for them.”
     Ameream also claims that the teams have used “preposterous factual assumptions and concocted traffic models manipulated by the teams to conjure images of nightmare traffic and parking at MetLife Stadium on game days which they know to be false, and which have been rejected by every agency which has considered them.”
     The Giants and Jets issued a statement about the lawsuit: “It is unfortunate that the NJSEA and the developer have filed an action that flies in the face of Court’s express prior ruling that the court, and not the NJSEA Board of Commissioners, would decide this breach of contract case. The teams invested more than $1.6 billion in, and committed their future to, the State of New Jersey in reliance on the protections set forth in their contract with the State. We will vigorously pursue this action to enforce the State’s express promises to the teams, and protect the rights of our fans.”
     Triple Five, the parent company of the American Dream developers, weighed in through the media on the filing too.
     “The New York teams speculate that American Dream may have some undefined future adverse impact on them,” the developer said through spokesman Alan Marcus.
     “The teams are attempting to use the courts to make our days and hours of operation subject to their self-interest in controlling the entire complex on game days. No business should be forced to allow a competitor to dictate their method or hours of operation.”
     The developers have said hope to break ground on the expansion and completion project in August despite the ongoing legal battles.
     Ameream accuses the teams of breach of contract, and civil conspiracy. They seek declaratory judgment and compensatory and punitive damages.
     They are represented by Herbert Stern with Stern & Kilcullen of Florham Park, N.J.

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