Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

New Urgency for American Dream?

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

New Urgency for American Dream?

Article excerpt

The results of Tuesday's Borough Council elections in East Rutherford should bring a greater sense of urgency to the developers of the American Dream Meadowlands project, Mayor James Cassella said.

Both winners are former Republicans who switched parties and ran on a platform that included opposition to the borough's role in financing the project. Ed Ravettine, the lone opponent to the council's preliminary approval in October 2013 of plans to issue as much as $524 million in municipal bonds for American Dream, was voted back onto the council Tuesday, beating incumbent Thomas Banca, who had supported the financing. Ravettine was joined by Sam Stallone, an incumbent who also became a Democrat.

Cassella, a Republican, said that while his party still holds a 4- 2 majority on the council, the new council's consensus on issues once it convenes in early January may be unclear.

"If Triple Five is going to do this [American Dream project], they'd better do it quick," said Cassella, noting that at least four of the six council members must back any bond issuance. "New people come in and have new ideas, and things may not go as smoothly for Triple Five. They may hit some obstacles."

Ravettine, owner of Stinger's Bar and Grill in Wallington, has called the bonding plan "a bad deal for East Rutherford.

"We shouldn't be issuing those bonds, period," he said Friday. "I still don't believe we should be the bank to private industry. I believe private funds should be used down there."

Stallone agreed.

"If this were such a good project, why do they need public financing?" he said.

Triple Five spokesman Alan Marcus said that the project still has "overwhelming support" among borough residents because of the economic benefits from adding thousands of jobs in the region.

"We're just closing up on a few items, and then everything will be resolved," Marcus added while refusing to set a timetable for issuance of the bonds.

Meanwhile, Jon F. Hanson, Governor Christie's adviser on the American Dream project, said he had not anticipated a bond sale before January. But after being told of Cassella's comments on the East Rutherford election results, he, too, said a quicker pace may be the wiser course. "I agree with the mayor," he said.

The American Dream project relies extensively on publicly issued bonds involving agencies at the local, county and state levels. East Rutherford's role is especially important, and even though the council has issued a series of preliminary approvals, a final vote has yet to be taken. Borough officials say they have been waiting for Triple Five to address their concerns about eliminating the possibility that the municipality could be exposed to any risk in the bonding deal.

The borough last year granted preliminary approval to a plan to redirect as much as $524 million in scheduled payments in lieu of taxes over the next 33 years to the developer to help pay for the $2 billion in additional construction costs required to complete the project, which is now slated to open by late 2016. …

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