In a ruling issued today, the judge said it was premature to intervene in the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority's review process, despite the teams' concerns over how the plan would impact traffic around MetLife Stadium. The developer, Triple Five, counted the ruling as a win, even though the judge upheld a related complaint against it.
"We are clearly elated by the decision and will continue to move forward with our project," Triple Five spokesman Alan Marcus said in an e-mailed statement. "We look forward to working with the teams through the appropriate regulatory process before the NJSEA."
The lawsuit, which the teams filed in late June, brought the parties to court on Monday as the agency and the developer sought to have it dismissed. The clubs have objected to Triple Five's plan to add water and amusement parks to the massive project, arguing it would cause game-day gridlock around the stadium.
Attorneys for the teams claimed that by considering the plan, the sports authority violated a 2006 contract giving them veto power over changes that would adversely affect them. But Judge Peter E. Doyne dismissed the claim today, noting that the agency has only approved a conceptual design of the expansion.
"Crucially — and fatally, to plaintiffs' claim — it appears the process for the approval of a major modification … has only started," Doyne wrote. "Certainly, no approval has been forthcoming from NJSEA staff, let alone its board."
Doyne also was reluctant to allow litigation over the project while a review by the sports authority, which includes a set of upcoming hearings, was still pending. He noted, however, that the teams could return to court to appeal any final decision by the authority.
"To allow the two proceedings to occur simultaneously, with the possibility of inconsistent factual findings and ultimate outcomes, serves nobody's best interests," he wrote. "The more sensible course is to allow the proceedings before the NJSEA to go forward."
The judge did uphold a complaint that alleged Triple Five interfered in the contract between the teams and the state by pursuing the project. He refused to throw out that complaint, although it was not immediately clear if the litigation would continue.
The teams filed the suit June 22, prompting motions about three weeks later as the developer and the sports authority moved to have the case thrown out.
The state's "cooperation agreement" with the teams was forged from a similar lawsuit by the Giants in 2005, when the project, then known as Xanadu, was being developed by Mills Corp. Construction stopped in 2009, before Triple Five announced last year that it would revive the project.
The Canadian firm, aided by the sports authority, has since pursued nearly $2 billion in financing and long list of approvals needed to resume construction.
In a statement, Karen Kessler, a spokeswoman for the teams, said the Jets and Giants were pleased with the opinion, and "hope, as a result, the NJSEA will finally address our and our fans' concerns about Triple Five's proposed expansion."
"The lawsuit against Triple Five continues, and if the NJSEA does not properly address those concerns, we will look to this court to enforce our rights as directed by the judge," Kessler said.