Xanadu: bipartisan consensus, public opposition

One of those moments of bipartisan consensus that Gov. Christie likes to brag about came this spring, when both parties came together to bail out the Xanadu mall with up to $800 million in public funds. The money will bail out a project that is not only figuratively underwater, but also literally sinking into the Meadowlands swamps. The State Senate voted 36-0 and Assembly 71-6 back in June to approve $200 million of the $800 million package.

The mall will be called “American Dream Meadowlands” – which led KendalJames to point out a couple months back that perhaps in today’s age of bailouts, getting free taxpayer money for a megamall is the real American Dream.

It turns out that this bipartisan consensus is wildly unpopular, with 58 percent opposed and only 31 percent approving. The opposition is bipartisan – coming from both liberals and conservatives, according to the pollster.

It makes you wonder – how does a development get $800 million in public funds in a time when such funds are incredibly scarce and our urban and suburban schools are struggling, homestead tax rebates are cut, and transit fares and tolls are going way up? And how does a bipartisan consensus form around a project that neither party’s base supports?

Comments (4)

  1. sandy23

    the people want.  If the pols can help big business with a bailout, then damn the people, full speed ahead.

    A mall?? In this economy, with all of the other needs you described, not to mention some affordable housing.  If wages don’t start increasing there will be no one to buy, or otherwise spend money in this white elephant.

  2. ken bank

    According to the article on philly.com the financing comes from funds set aside under President Obama’s 2009 “Stimulus” program. The vote in the legislature, unanimous in the Senate and near-unanimous in the Assembly, was necessitated by a technical glitch in the original “Stimulus” law. According to the same article the project will provide 9000 construction jobs, and 35,000 permanent jobs when the mall is open. This is a “shovel-ready” project of the sort the stimulus program was intended to facilitate. The mall will likely generate 100s of millions of dollars in added revenue to the state over the next few years, money which can be used to pay for some of the other items mentioned like school aid and homestead rebates. And while some local proprietors will lose business from the added competition, the mall should attract countless thousands from out-of-state (eg. PA & NY) which should more than compensate.

  3. gideon.NJPIRG

    This project is funded through a tricky way of financing development called tax-increment financing (TIF).  TIF was designed to revitalize underinvested communities, but has seen lots of misuse recently.  NJPP has a piece on it.

    NJPIRG just put out a report today on TIFs.


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