BERGEN COUNTY, NJ — While American Dream Meadowlands inches closer to its March 2019 opening date, one local environmental group thinks the project is a bad idea for several reasons.
The New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, a national environmental advocacy group, says Triple Five Group's $5 billion, 7.1 million square-foot project is "New Jersey's nightmare." The nonprofit claims the 90-acre project does not make sense fiscally, is not a good investment, will hurt the environment, and cause massive traffic problems for North Jersey.
Air pollution is a big environmental strike against American Dream, according to the Sierra Club.
"It'll be one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases in the region with all the heating and cooling that will go on there and all the electricity it's going to use," said Tittel.
Jeff Tittel, the chapter's executive director, said that in order for the mall to work, 100,000 vehicles a day must visit it and 150,000 on a Saturday.
"Everyday traffic will be like game day at Giants Stadium," Tittel previously said. "What happens to the traffic in the region if on a Saturday people are going to the racetrack, shoppers are coming to the American Dream, and there is a Saturday football game at the Meadowlands?"
Mass transit options are being implemented and explored. A commuter shuttle will run between NJ Transit's Meadowlands station and the Secaucus train station. NJ Transit will operate a direct bus line from the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City to American Dream.
New York Waterway is in talks to run a shuttle to take customers to and from marinas along the Hudson River's Gold Coast to American Dream.
The project could also exacerbate flooding that already plagues the area.
"They're filling in wetlands to construct it," Tittel said. "That floodwater is going to go somewhere else. You're going to fill in wetlands to build a waterpark."
American Dream Meadowlands' genesis dates back 12 years ago when the ill-fated Xanadu project was slated to be built. Developer Triple Five took over the project in 2011 and secured $1.6 billion from Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan in May to finance it.
The state Department of Community Affairs approved the sale of $800 million in taxpayer bonds to fund the project. The $800 million is in addition to $350 million in funding from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.
"They are paying virtually no taxes and putting up nearly $1 billion in public bonds," Tittel said. "It's a waste of taxpayer money and that capital could have been used in building a biotech incubator. All we're doing here is putting money into a mall and malls are dying."
Jim Kirkos, chief executive officer of the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce, disagrees with Tittel.
Kirkos previously said that regional malls near the West Edmonton Mall, another one of Triple Five's properties, have expanded three times in the last six years.
"The Garden State Plaza, the Willowbrook Mall, American Dream is not expected to put those places out of business," Kirkos said.
American Dream will feature:
- North America's largest indoor water park designed by DreamWorks, the company behind "Shrek," "Kung Fu Panda" and "How To Train Your Dragon."
- KidZania, a miniature city run by kids 4 to 14 years old with its own currency. Companies like Honda, Sony, Kellogg's, Coca-Cola and others have sponsored businesses and landmarks in the attraction.
- The Launched Euro-Fighter roller coaster will have the world's steepest roller coaster drop. The Spinner Coaster will be the world's tallest and longest free-spinning roller coaster in the world. The latter's cars will rotate vertically as they move along the track.
- The first Sea Life aquarium in New Jersey. It will feature a tropical ocean tank with a walk-through underwater tunnel.
- A 22,000-square-foot arcade and bowling alley for adults. It will feature live bands and a selection of craft beers.
- An aquarium with an underwater tunnel and a LEGOLAND discovery center. The aquarium will feature seahorses, sharks, rays and a tropical ocean tanks. LEGOLAND will feature a 4-D cinema, a Lego brick pool and rides. Kids can also take Lego building classes.
- A 12-story indoor ski park with an 800-foot-long hill.
- A 300-foot-tall Ferris wheel will offer a one-of-a-kind view of Manhattan.
- A 4-D, dine-in movie theater that will allow moviegoers to smell scents in the films they watch.
- 15 restaurants and 50 grab-and-go offerings in a 150,000-square-foot food court.
- The world's first Kosher food court.
- A separate retail area for luxury retailers, including Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue and Hermes.
By Daniel Hubbard