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Meadowlands, Xanadu tug of war is an interesting debate

pizzurosal073111_optBY SALVATORE PIZZURO
COMMENTARY

An interesting phenomenon that is endemic among local municipalities in New Jersey is occurring among the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, the New York Giants and Jets Football Teams, several private companies, and the Borough of East Rutherford.

Apparently, private companies and buildings are operating with the Borough after establishing their residences two years ago and have yet to pay one penny in property taxes. It seems that the properties, including buildings owned by the Giants and Jets, are sitting within the Meadowlands Sports Complex territory.

As a result, Mayor James Cassella and the Borough have asked the court to rule that privately owned buildings on State land — including the New York Giants’ training center — can be taxed.

By Mayor Cassella’s estimate, private buildings and concerns at the Meadowlands owe East Rutherford millions. According to the Mayor and Council, the Borough is owed tens of million of dollars incuding $2.5 million from the Timex Performance Center and $1.6 million from the Giants Stadium. Neither the Times Performance Center, where the New York Giants Football Team practices, nor the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority have paid anything in property taxes since the Center opened two years ago.

Cassella maintains that private entities are not part of the agreement with the Sports Authority to pay an annual fee in lieu of taxes. In the long run, the failure of the private companies to pay taxes has cost the residents of East Rutherford dearly.

This is not the first time that the Borough has contested the actions of the Sports Authority or the Meadowlands Sports Complex. When the Xanadu Project, now called the American Dream, first broke ground, liquor licenses were granted to new establishments at a token fee of two thousand dollars when liquor licenses in East Rutherford were being bought and sold for many hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In addition, the companies that began the Xanadu Project promised the Borough an annual fee, beginning with its scheduled opening more than five years ago. As we know, Xanadu, or the American Dream, has yet to open and is in dire financial straights. Furthermore, Xanadu executives reneged on an agreement to provide their own police, fire and emergency protection, costing the Borough additional hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire safety personnel with no money coming in from the Meadowlands.

Mayor Cassella continues to fight for tax ratables in East Rutherford, as the major companies that are “squatting” in the Borough get a free pass. Perhaps more interesting, this pattern is endemic among local municipalities in New Jersey. Although the Christie Administration purports to save the State from an economic debacle, local governments continue to descend into a fiscal abyss.

Dr. Salvatore Pizzuro, a Disability Policy Specialist, holds a doctorate in Developmental Disabilities from Columbia University and an advanced degree in Disability Law from New York Law School.

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