Mayor Fulop has taken a group, which includes council members and city department heads, to Paris to meet with officials of the Pompidou Museum.
In June of 2021, Fulop announced a plan to build a $40 million satellite of the famed museum in the Pathside Building at Journal Square. The mayor has argued that the Jersey City satellite, to be called “Pompidou x,” will attract visitors from around the region, spur development, and elevate Jersey City’s profile in the art world.
News of the trip was apparently limited to a small group of City Hall insiders. The Jersey City Times learned about it from several sources who asked to remain anonymous. According to one source, the trip was privately funded.
Council President Joyce Watterman, Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey, Director of Cultural Affairs Christine Goodman, Business Administrator John Metro, and Housing, Economic Development and Commerce Director Annisia Cialone are in the group, according to a source.
It is believed that the group will be returning tonight or tomorrow morning. The mayor reportedly has planned a fundraiser tomorrow night for his expected gubernatorial run.
Asked about the trip, Ward F Councilman Frank Gilmore said that he had not been told about it but noted that both Watterman and Prinz-Arey missed last night’s caucus meeting. “If the trip was privately funded, I’d like to know who paid for it,” he said.
Councilman Richard Boggiano, in whose ward Pompidou x would be located, said he learned about the trip only yesterday.
This isn’t the mayor’s first secret trip to Paris in connection with Pompidou x. In the fall of last year, the Jersey City Times learned that the mayor had travelled to Paris with Goodman.
In response to an Open Public Records Request filed by the Times seeking information on the trip, mayoral spokesperson Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione told the paper, “There are no responsive documents to your OPRA request as no taxpayer dollars were used in any way.”
In June of last year, the Times reported that Charles Kushner, the developer of the massive One Journal Square apartment complex next door to the planned museum, had given Fulop the initial idea of partnering with the French museum.
While the plan for Jersey City has been greeted warmly by some, and while the state of New Jersey has agreed to kick in $24 million toward the project, some artists and activists have questioned both the need for the museum and the wisdom of burdening Jersey City with the cost of building and running the institutution.
The memorandum of understanding with Pompidou, approved by the City Council in June 2021, calls for the city to pay Pompidou $6 million per year for five years in exchange for project development, branding, educational programming, and organizing exhibitions. Annual operating expenses and costs for shipping and insuring art sent from France, which aren’t included in the $6 million already agreed to, could more than double that number. In 2019, the smaller Montclair Museum had total expenses of $5 million.
At a City Council meeting that year, then Councilman-at-large Rolando Lavarro asked Mayor Fulop about operating costs. Fulop responded, “There will be some additional cost. … We have some ranges on that which we’re pretty comfortable with based upon what’s happened with other museums. …We’ve done a lot of research around that, and I’m happy to get you some of that information.”
Two years later, the mayor has yet to produce the promised budget.