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Crucial Bonds OK’d for $675M American Dream Project; Labor Agreement Already in Place


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The East Rutherford Borough Council recently advanced $675 million in bonds to help the American Dream Meadowlands project, a mixed-use retail development that will be constructed under a Project Labor Agreement (PLA).  Over 150 members of local trades unions packed Borough Hall to capacity in support of the project.  

Rick Sabato, President of the Bergen County Building and Construction Trades Councils, believes the project will support as many as 9,000 construction jobs over the next three years.  “It’s been five years of suffering for our members,” he told the council. “We’re not used to being unemployed.”

The council voted in favor of the bond package despite some dissent from members who wished to see a public referendum on the matter.  Council member Saverio Stallone told Sabato that his dissent did not signify a lack of support for local workers. 

The council also voted 4-2 in favor of introducing an ordinance that would authorize a PILOT (payment in-lieu of taxes) program for the development.  Mayor James Cassella, who broke the original 3-3 tie by voting in favor of advancing the bonds, noted that the language of the ordinance gives the borough a year to finalize a financial agreement.  He views the current state of the project as quite encouraging:

We’ve come a long way. I’m pleased that we’re moving ahead. The issue now is taxable or non-taxable bonds. The financial agreement hasn’t changed. They have the option of tax-exempt bonds or taxable bonds. It’s better for us with taxable bonds, because it takes the burden off of East Rutherford to file financial documents every year with regard to any post bond issuance issues.”

The project has been 5 years in the making and has an estimated price tag of $2 to $3 billion.  Phase One of the project is currently underway.  Lou Sancio, Director of the Alliance for Competitive Contracting, said that up to 1,000 union workers could be on the job this year. That number would rise to nearly 2,000 by next spring:

“We have around 300 workers there now building the water park. The project is good for the town, the state, the taxpayers. They know it’s good and everybody benefits.”

Upon completion, the American Dream Meadowlands is expected to house an indoor water park, an amusement park, an aquarium, Imax theaters, and a shopping facility which FAO Schwartz, the Gap, and Victoria’s Secret have already committed to opening in.  The development will be centered around MetLife Stadium, the Izod Center, and the Meadowlands racetrack.  Developers estimate nearly 40 million annual visitors.


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