Arena Funding Cut Sought

An attorney representing five Newark, N.J., residents say they will seek a permanent injunction to force the city to cut off funding for arena construction, even as site preparation for the NHL New Jersey Devils’ future home is winding down.

The group hopes to get funding pulled until a 2002 lawsuit challenging a deal struck between the Port Authority and the city is decided, according to the Bergen Record newspaper.

Attorney Ira Karasick and plaintiff David Schnegelberger told the paper they were optimistic they could prevail in their suit contending the 2001 financing deal is illegal.

Under that agreement, the Port Authority would pay 30 years of supplemental rent for its lease on Newark Liberty International Airport, including $210 million for arena construction, without paying it directly into the city budget. The move prevented a voter referendum on the city’s role in building the arena, estimated to cost $310 million.

“I feel like we have been betrayed by the mayor and the city council,” Schnegelberger told the Record. “The kids are learning in closets, our crime rate is soaring and no one cares about the people. It’s time to put us first, instead of team owners who can pay for this arena themselves.”

Newark’s request for summary judgement in the lawsuit was turned down by Superior Court in September, an action that Devils and city officials termed “routine.” Devils owner Jeffrey Vanderbeek called the suit “baseless.”

“We’re still going full steam ahead,” Vanderbeek told the newspaper, adding that a months-long soil compaction project at the site was nearing completion. Once that’s done, the site will be ready for pouring the concrete foundation. Steel for the arena’s frame is expected to arrive in January.

Karasick admitted that once the arena starts going up, getting the injunction “becomes problematic for us.”

“But what they’ve been doing so far is preparing the infrastructure for the site, and that needs to be done anyway,” he told the Record.

“Nobody misses the [abandoned] Renaissance Mall that was torn down, and we don’t object to seeing development at the site. Hopefully, the next legal step will just take less time.”