The controversial Paterson Art Factory is facing a major hurdle at the City Council as it seeks entertainment and dance hall licenses.
Councilman Michael Jackson has held up approval of the licenses citing past issues with the Art Factory. Earlier in the month, he sought an explanation from mayor Andre Sayegh’s administration on the status of the more than 140 summonses issued to the Art Factory two years ago.
Jackson received an explanation on Tuesday night. Law director Farrah Irving said the Art Factory paid fees for two summonses. David Garsia, owner of the Art Factory, paid $600 in penalties for the two tickets, according to court records. She said the rest of the tickets were dismissed for being “procedurally deficient” and “duplicative.”
Irving’s remarks upset inspectors who issued the tickets two years ago. They felt Irving’s assertion questioned their competence. There was nothing deficient about the tickets that were written, they argued. In fact, a judge had upheld the tickets as valid last year.
Records show a negotiated settlement was struck to resolve the issue. Part of the deal struck in Feb. 2019 required the Art Factory to secure certificate of occupancy documents for itself and its tenants within 60 days, according to officials.
Jackson alleged the Art Factory’s tickets were dismissed as a result of Garsia’s cozy relationship with the mayor. He tied the mayor to Garsia by citing the mayor’s party that was held at the Art Factory last summer.
“Paterson is not serious. You can do whatever you want,” said Jackson.
Some of Jackson’s colleagues joined him.
“This establishment has been there for years. Were they doing business without proper licenses?” asked councilman Shahin Khalique.
Irving indicated that was the case.
“How’s that possible?” remarked Khalique.
Councilman Luis Velez said he needed more time to review the documents Irving provided to council members.
Jackson grew even more suspicious of the administration after business administrator Vaughn McKoy blocked Community Improvement director David Gilmore from addressing the council on the matter.
Irving told Jackson he has to send a request to the business administrator if he wanted administration officials to address the council on the matter. She explained Gilmore is a division director. She appeared open to letting economic development director Michael Powell to address the council on the issue.
Jackson raised safety issues at the site. He pointed out a person was killed at a building owned by the same owner on 1st Avenue.
Irving said the fire department conducted an inspection this month and did not find any violations at the Art Factory on Spruce Street. She also suggested Garsia can’t be blamed for that death because he had leased the space to another entity.
Jackson pointed out Garsia has multiple lease agreements at the Art Factory.
Councilman William McKoy said the tickets were resolved in court and could not be used as justification to deny or hold up the licenses.
“We can’t continue to hold those matters against the applicant,” said McKoy. “They have met all of the requirements we’ve put in place to obtain licenses.”
McKoy suggested his colleagues approve the licenses because the applicant has met all of the requirements outlined in local law.
“If we do anything other than that we’re giving the applicants the impression that the rule of law doesn’t really apply and you can do everything that you are required to do, but we can still, in an arbitrary way, choose to deny your application,” said McKoy.
Council members put off approving the licenses. Council president Maritza Davila said the licenses will be considered for a vote again in a special meeting on Jan. 28.