July 21st, 2024

Money issues may sink proposed New Jersey branch of acclaimed Paris museum. Mayor blames politics

By The Associated Press on July 3, 2024.

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) – New Jersey officials say financial concerns spurred state lawmakers to rescind $24 million in funding for a planned outpost of Paris’ acclaimed Pompidou Center in Jersey City. But the city’s mayor said he believes his deteriorating relationship with Gov. Phil Murphy led to the decision.

Centre Pompidou x Jersey City was to be built on the site of a gutted industrial building, not far from where the Statue of Liberty stands in New York Harbor. At the time, it was seen as a way to attract tourists and New Yorkers into Jersey City’s rapidly developing Journal Square neighborhood – an area that historically hasn’t been widely visited but is an easy train ride from Lower Manhattan.

The satellite museum would have been the French museum’s first venture in North America.

While both the city and state agreed $176 million in construction costs would be fully funded by public money, they disagreed about the annual operating budget. The city said $19 million in annual expenses would be covered by ticketing, venue rentals, donations and a proposed tax on new buildings in the area. But the state viewed that amount as a regular deficit.

“Due to the ongoing impact of Covid and multiple global conflicts on the supply chain, rising costs, an irreconcilable operating gap and the corresponding financial burdens it will create for New Jersey’s taxpayers, the Legislature has rescinded financial support, leaving us to determine that this project is unfortunately no longer feasible,” Tim Sullivan, chief executive of the state’s Economic Development Authority, said in a recent letter to museum officials.

Mayor Steve Fulop disputed those claims and told The New York Times that while Murphy initially supported the museum when the plans were announced in 2021, the situation changed after he rescinded his support for Murphy’s wife, Tammy, in her bid to be the Democratic nominee in this year’s U.S. Senate race. Fulop instead backed Rep. Andy Kim.

Tammy Murphy bowed out of the contest in March, saying she did not want to engage in a negative campaign against a fellow Democrat. Kim, who won the primary last month, is now seeking the seat that is currently held by Bob Menendez, who is on trial for federal bribery charges.

“There is no question in my mind that this (funding decision) is directly related to my support of Andy Kim,” Fulop told the newspaper.

Natalie Hamilton, a Murphy spokeswoman, noted that the governor had voiced concerns in April about the museum’s potential operating deficit, stressing at the time that it had “literally zero to do” with politics.

“We can’t marry ourselves to a $19 million deficit forever and always,” Murphy said at the time.

In a statement issued to the newspaper, a spokesman for the Pompidou Center said the museum “remains committed to ongoing discussions with the mayor of Jersey City to jointly determine the project’s future direction.”

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