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Judge may rule this week on Giants, Jets suit over American Dream expansion

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A judge could rule by later this week on whether the state's two NFL teams can continue a lawsuit aimed at blocking a developer from completing the American Dream Meadowlands retail and entertainment project.

Attorneys in the case met in court today for the first time since the New York Giants and Jets sued developer Triple Five and the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, which is shepherding the project. The teams, which occupy MetLife Stadium, have objected to an expansion of the development that they say would strangle game-day traffic around the Meadowlands Sports Complex.

During the hour-long hearing today, Superior Court Judge Peter E. Doyne pressed attorneys from each party as they recounted arguments laid out in court filings. Robert J. Giuffra Jr., a Sullivan & Cromwell attorney representing the teams, said the sports authority has breached a contract that gives the clubs the right to consent to major changes in the project.

As Giants owner John Mara looked on, Doyne noted the agency has given only a preliminary approval to an expansion by Triple Five, then questioned whether any changes have been finalized when there is "a multistep process (that is) currently ongoing."

"Correct, it's a multistep process, but a major key decision has been made," Giuffra responded, noting that the sports authority has helped Triple Five obtain regulatory approvals for the site. He also questioned the sports authority's announcement, six days after the teams filed suit, that it would hold a hearing on the dispute.

Lawyers for Triple Five and the sports authority have asked for the case to be dismissed, prompting today's hearing in a Hackensack courtroom. The attorneys argue the case is not ripe for review because the agency is planning to hold administrative hearings on the developer's plan to add indoor water and amusement parks.

Doyne, who appeared to defer to the state's procedures, asked attorneys for the sports authority what the agency would decide at its hearings. One attorney, Peter J. Torcicollo, said the authority's master plan subcommittee would hope to decide whether to approve, reject or modify the project, while taking into account the concerns of the parties involved in the dispute.

He dismissed Giuffra's skepticism about the hearings, saying "the master plan subcommittee is not something that was invented on the fly in response to this lawsuit." He also rejected the idea that the sports authority was trying to get around its contract with the teams.

Doyne ended the hearing by saying he hoped to issue a ruling in the case by later this week.

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Joshua Burd

Joshua Burd

Josh Burd covers real estate, economic development and sports and entertainment. Before joining NJBIZ in 2011, he spent four years as a metro reporter in Central Jersey. His email is joshb@njbiz.com and he is @JoshBurdNJ on Twitter.

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