Giants, Jets lawsuit still a roadblock as American Dream permits are approved

July 30. 2012 1:40PM

By Joshua Burd

A court hearing on the controversial American Dream Meadowlands project is still a week away, but the legal clash between its developer and New Jersey's two NFL teams has been simmering for weeks.

The latest salvo was fired on Friday when attorneys for the would-be developer, Triple Five, filed a brief in state Superior Court. The filing once again called for a judge to dismiss the five-week-old lawsuit by the New York Giants and New York Jets, which have moved to stop the project from being expanded because of traffic concerns.

In the brief, Triple Five's attorneys say the matter is "speculative" and "not ripe for adjudication" because an administrative review by state officials is still pending. The New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, which is the landlord for the retail and entertainment project, is preparing to have its master plan committee review the plan before it decides whether to approve any changes.

"Plaintiffs are asking for an advisory opinion on a hypothetical set of facts because the proposed modification has not been approved by the NJSEA," attorney David Samson wrote, referring to Triple Five's proposal to add water and amusement parks to the project.

The parties, including the sports authority, are due in court Aug. 6, but the latest filings come as Triple Five obtains key environmental permits for the additions. Last week, the state Department of Environmental Protection approved a plan to extend the project's footprint to a five-acre tract of wetlands in East Rutherford.

The former Xanadu project is still awaiting approvals from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which also reviewed the plan. Triple Five spokesman Alan Marcus said a comment period for the federal review closes this week.

But the massive, long-stalled development has faced a new layer of uncertainty since June 22, when the Jets and Giants sued Triple Five and the sports authority, citing concerns about game-day traffic around New Meadowlands Stadium. The suit has set off a string of motions and response briefs that have filled the case file.

Friday's filing by Triple Five came in response to a brief filed earlier this month by the teams. In the brief, the clubs say the court should hear its case because the sports authority is "not a disinterested third party to this lawsuit." They also say the agency has "manufactured" an administrative process — announcing its plan to hold a hearing six days after the teams filed suit — to deprive them of their right to legal action.

The teams point to a 2006 agreement with the previous developer that gives them the right to consent to changes to the project that could impact game days. The agreement also gives them the right to be heard in court in the event of a dispute.

"The NJSEA's decision to schedule, only after being sued, another review of the developers' American Dream plans cannot change that this suit was ripe at the time it was filed," the teams' attorney, William J. O'Shaughnessy, wrote in the July 23 filing.

He later writes that "(Triple Five's and the agency's) theory — that the NJSEA can stand as judge and jury over whether it has breached its own contract — contradicts the express language of the cooperation agreement."

And in a letter dated July 11, O'Shaughnessy asked the authority to not schedule any hearings until after the court rules on Triple Five's motion to dismiss the suit.

Filings by the sports authority could not immediately be obtained.


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