The New York Giants and New York Jets’ lawsuit seeking to block the American Dream Meadowlands mall was rejected by a New Jersey judge who said the football teams’ claims the project would worsen traffic around the stadium where they play were premature.
Superior Court Judge Peter Doyne ruled yesterday that the National Football League teams must wait until the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority completes a review of the mall project before filing such a breach-of-contract claim.
“Simply put, this case is not ripe for adjudication,” Doyne ruled in state court in Hackensack, New Jersey. He let stand a claim of tortious interference with contractual rights.
Triple Five Worldwide Development Co. is developing the retail and entertainment complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey, next to MetLife Stadium, where the Giants and Jets play. The project, formerly known as Xanadu, has been stalled since 2009. Triple Five took over and has plans to create the largest mall in the world and attract 55 million visitors annually.
The Sports Authority, whose commissioners are appointed by the governor, gave conditional approval in October to the Triple Five conceptual design, including an amusement park and a water park. That plan would include 7.5 million square feet of space, and would be open on Sundays, when the teams play home games.
The state Department of Transportation granted a “major access permit” on May 10, finding modifications to the plan wouldn’t result in a “significant traffic increase,” according to the judge’s opinion.
The teams sued Triple Five and the Sports Authority on June 22, claiming the agency should have sought their consent for the American Dream plan, which would reduce parking availability. The Sports Authority countered that it hasn’t given the project its final approval so the teams can’t rely on a 2006 “cooperation agreement” regarding their veto rights on changes to the Xanadu project.
The teams argued that they spent $1.6 billion developing MetLife Stadium and believed “their investment would be protected by their ability to veto any proposed development at the Meadowlands which would adversely affect them,” according to the opinion.
“Crucially, and fatally to plaintiffs’ claim, it appears the process for the approval of a major modification” has only started, the judge ruled. “Without knowing what the final, approved proposal will be, the court cannot decide whether it will cause adverse effects to plaintiffs, thus triggering their right under the cooperation agreement to consent to it.”
Doyne rejected the Giants’ and Jets’ claims that “final approval is all but a foregone conclusion” and that the proceedings before the Sports Authority are a “sham.”
Doyne said he saw no evidence of a “lack of meaningful review,” and “no way to know what proposal -- if any -- will be adopted.”
Triple Five said is “elated” by the decision and will move ahead with the project, according to an e-mailed statement.
“We look forward to working with the teams through the appropriate regulatory process before the NJSEA,” the company said.
The teams said in an e-mailed statement they 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.”
“In the meanwhile, 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,” the teams said.
The case is New Meadowlands Stadium Co. LLC v. Triple Five Group, BER-C-193-12, Superior Court of New Jersey, Bergen County (Hackensack).