Seeking relief

Secaucus officials hope to modify negative effects of American Dream
American Dream is ready to go, but Secaucus isn't ready for its impact.
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American Dream is ready to go, but Secaucus isn't ready for its impact.

Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli has postponed a plan to protest the proposed opening of the American Dream recreation complex in neighboring East Rutherford in hopes of getting officials of the NJ Sports and Expedition Authority, which owns the property, to modify the negative effects Gonnelli said the American Dream will have on Secaucus.

“We have several concerns,” Gonnelli said. “This project is going to generate increased traffic, noise, and other issues for us.”

Included on the expansive site is the Meadowlands Sports Complex, which already has been a mixed blessing for Secaucus residents, particularly those living on the north end of town. The sports complex encompasses MetLife Stadium, a racetrack, and a concert venue.

While sports fans could get to events at the complex easily, it historically has created traffic problems, spillover noise, and other issues for Seacucus.

“We have several concerns. This project is going to generate increased traffic, noise, and other issues for us.” –Michael Gonnelli

American nightmare?

For the most part, these events took place once or twice a week and generally for a limited time during the day. But the American Dream recreation complex will cause daily traffic issues that would extend for longer periods and would create noise, light, and other problems for more than just a few hours on weekends.

“I know that the sports authority does largely what it wants,” Gonnelli said. “But I want to meet with them and give them a chance to provide us with some relief.”

The American Dream has been on the drawing board in various configurations since the mid-1990s. It was first proposed for a wetlands area north of the existing sports complex and then moved into the complex as a compromise with local environmentalists who initially opposed it.

The project was reconfigured and relocated to the Meadowlands Sports Complex site in 2003. Originally known as Xanadu, it  went through a number of owners and continual setbacks. For several years, it sat partially completed with some of the new beams turning to rust, a kind of modern-day ghost town until then Gov. Christopher Christie threw his support behind the project.

The big bucks 

In 2011, Triple Five, a multinational conglomerate development and finance corporation,  took over and began securing financing. In 2016, it announced that Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan had sold $1.1 billion in tax-exempt bonds to finance the project. That came a month after Triple Five closed on a $1.67 billion construction loan Sachs and Morgan provided. Triple Five also built and manages the famed Mall of America in Minneapolis.

The American Dream is expected to open in March with an 8.5-acre Nickelodeon Universe theme park, billed as the largest indoor theme park in the Western Hemisphere.

Features include two roller coasters known for their record-breaking height and length, an indoor ski and snowboard park 12 stories high, a Ferris wheel, ice rink, and movie theater.

Secaucus is neighboring town

Secaucus, the next town east of East Rutherford on Route 3, already suffers congestion during rush-hour traffic in and out of New York City. The New Jersey Turnpike also has exits into Secaucus with motorists often using Secaucus streets as back-road approaches to the Lincoln Tunnel. Current work on Route 495 near Secaucus has caused backups which are expected to worsen if future plans to replace the helix approach to the Lincoln Tunnel get underway in the future.

MetLife Stadium, which hosts NY Giants and NY Jets football games, concerts, soccer, and other events, adds significant traffic congestion.

For residents in the north end of Secaucus, where residential housing lines the eastern shore of the Hackensack River across from the American Dream site, bright lights and loud noises associated with the American Dream complex could pose issues similar to those residents currently face being in the flight path for Teterboro Airport.

Gonnelli did not make clear what relief the sports authority could provide; he intends to meet with officials there to explore options. If not satisfied he will initiate public protests to get their attention.

“The sports authority largely does what it wants to do,” he said. “But we have to make our concerns known to them.”

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