December 23, 2016
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A giant mall is slowly being built by the Triple Five development group on a former wetlands across from New York City. Triple Five also built the Mall of America, in Minnesota. Recognizing that no one wants to go to a small city devoted entirely to shopping, they’re sprinkling in movie theaters, a waterpark and year-round ski slope, and more. It is already very expensive, and several years behind schedule. Sevin Yildiz, who teaches urban studies at Barnard College and is working on a book on the fiasco, says it might never get done. “I don’t think the state believes the promises of the deelopers anymore, but it’s too huge to fail. … That’s what keeps it going.”
But while the developers will control this megalopolis and control the profits (if any), they are not putting up the money. The state of New Jersey has ponied up tax breaks and other incentives worth nearly $1 billion, and backed another $1.15 billion in municipal bonds. The developers are putting in $350 million of their own money. Triple Five hopes to raise another $1.5 billion from investors, Businessweek says. In exchange, they promise tens of thousands of jobs.
Leaving aside the question of whether humanity would be better served by preserving wetlands than by creating indoor ski slopes and temples to consumerism, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority estimates that the project will provide a net benefit (after the tax breaks and other expenses from public coffers) of just $730 million over two decades. And that assumes, unlike their other projects, that Triple Five doesn’t return for more hand-outs. The Authority does believe some 11,000 jobs will be created, but says most won’t pay enough to cover the rent on a one-bedroom apartment in the surrounding county. (Presumably food banks can put food on the table, if the workers can scrounge up enough money for a table and a place to put it.)