Mayor Steve Fulop, right, is alleging recent state action regarding a French museum his city wants to build is the result of retaliation by the administration of Gov. Phil Murphy. (Murphy photo by Rich Hundley III of the governor’s office/Fulop photo by Dana DiFilippo)

The state Economic Development Authority is threatening to pull funding for the satellite location of a Paris art museum planned for Jersey City, citing concerns in a letter to city officials Friday about a $19 million budget gap in the city’s plan.

But Mayor Steve Fulop implied the state’s letter is retaliation for him rescinding his endorsement for first lady Tammy Murphy’s now-aborted run for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. 

“We heard zero from the state for months other than all is good except for the exact week I said I was endorsing Andy Kim,” Fulop said on social media. “That EXACT week we all of a sudden got multiple letters from Trenton after months of silence. What changed?”

Gov. Phil Murphy’s office referred comment to the Economic Development Authority, which declined to comment on Fulop’s allegation. Fulop is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor next year (Murphy is barred from seeking a third consecutive term).

The Centre Pompidou x Jersey City museum plan has faced controversy since it was first announced, mostly from Republican lawmakers who opposed using state funds for the project. City officials say the museum, slated to open in 2026 beside the PATH station in the city’s Journal Square neighborhood, will reinvigorate the neighborhood and help transform it into an arts, entertainment, and tourism hub.

Tim Sullivan, CEO of the Economic Development Agency, argues in Friday’s letter that the project may not be viable. The city’s plan identifies about $4 million in annual revenue from the museum but recurring expenses of about $23 million, the letter says.

Sullivan’s agency has pledged about $34 million to help fund the museum, but none of that has been released “due to the lack of balanced sources and uses and operating plan,” Sullivan wrote. The state has allocated an additional $24 million via this year’s budget.

“While we are eager to continue working with you on the CPxNJ project, the annual operating gap remains too significant to release any funding at this time,” Sullivan wrote.

Fulop said the state’s tone about the project was “entirely positive” until he decided to back Kim over Murphy in the Senate race.

On March 18, Fulop withdrew his support for the first lady — she dropped out of the race a few days later — and within days, he claims, the state began postponing meetings and demanding budget documents related to the museum project.

“I’ve been the mayor long enough to know that if the state wants to kill this then it is beyond my control and we will move on but let’s be clear on the timelines and actions. Overall, It would be a shame for NJ to lose it but it is beyond my control,” he said on social media.

In the letter, Sullivan said his agency still supports the project but needs an updated business model within 30 days to justify the state funding.

If the city cannot provide an updated model by then, “we will have to consider whether it is more prudent for the state to use these funds for other fiscal priorities that the Legislature and governor might identify through the budget and federal fund process,” Sullivan said.

Centre Pompidou is facing financial troubles elsewhere because of the renovation of its Paris location and the creation of a new branch in Massy, France, according to Art News.

Republished courtesy of New Jersey Monitor, which is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. New Jersey Monitor maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Terrence T. McDonald for questions: [email protected]. Follow New Jersey Monitor on Facebook and Twitter.