A project to open an outpost of Paris’s Centre Pompidou in Jersey City, New Jersey, is facing criticism from state Republicans. In a memorandum commissioned by state senator Michael Testa and released this week, the project—announced in 2021, originally due to open in 2024 and currently delayed until 2026—is characterised as “a circus of waste and excess”, with a total of $58m in state funds provided over the past two years “without meaningful applications or substantive oversight”.
The memo also claims that contracts for the project have been awarded “with minimal competition and outside of public bidding”, with more than 30 consultants brought on including “consultants to find other consultants”. The document, prepared by Tom Neff, the budget director for the state Republicans, alleges that some contracts for the project were awarded on a “pay-to-play” basis to vendors who have donated to state politicians.
The project, officially dubbed Centre Pompidou x Jersey City, has been a cornerstone of Jersey City mayor Steve Fulop’s plan to bolster the city’s status as a cultural destination. It is part of an effort to turn the area around the Journal Square transit hub into a vibrant arts district, and involves the transformation of the 58,000 sq. ft Pathside Building, built in 1912, into a world-class venue for Modern and contemporary art. Renowned architecture firm OMA is designing the renovation, with partner architect Jason Long leading the project. At the time the project was first announed Fulop, a Democrat who is now running for governor, said “the Centre Pompidou is the perfect partner to carry out our vision and solidify Journal Square as a regional anchor for the arts”.
In a statement, Testa criticised both Fulop and New Jersey’s current governor, Phil Murphy (also a Democrat), for “funnel[ling] tens of millions of dollars to the French arts museum project in Jersey City with little to no oversight of spending”. Testa added, “It’s not clear why this extremely expensive project is a priority for the Murphy administration, but the least the governor can do is try to control costs that appear to be ballooning.”
Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione, a spokesperson for Fulop, told the New Jersey Monitor that state Republicans’ memorandum was based on incomplete or incorrect information, and was not informed by official documents. “The conclusion is that Senator Testa is perhaps well-intentioned but, unfortunately, ignorant,” she said. “Perhaps he should be more careful to get his facts in order before embarrassing himself.”
The Jersey City outpost of the Centre Pompidou will be the French museum’s fourth international location, joining existing spaces in Shanghai, Brussels and Málaga, Spain. Additional Pompidou outposts are currently in development in Saudi Arabia and Seoul. The museum also operates a domestic satellite in Metz; its headquarters in Paris’s Marais neighbourhood will close in 2025 for a five-year renovation.