Municipal officials approved entertainment and dance hall licenses for the controversial Paterson Art Factory on Tuesday night.
Council members approved the licenses in a 6-1 vote. Councilman Michael Jackson was the sole vote against granting the licenses.
Jackson wanted to investigate the almost 140 tickets issued to the Art Factory and its owner David Garsia in 2016. Mayor Andre Sayegh’s administration provided him and other council members court resolution documents. Jackson wanted municipal employees, including inspectors, to testify before the City Council, but the Sayegh administration blocked his efforts for the second time.
Sayegh’s outgoing business administrator had told Jackson to submit a list of witnesses he wanted and the administration would consider allowing them to appear before the council.
Jackson appeared to allege the tickets were dismissed due Garsia’s cozy relationship with Sayegh. Sayegh’s controversial One Paterson group held its fundraiser last year at the Art Factory. Garsia obtained a 30-day certificate of occupancy from the Sayegh administration prior to hosting the fundraiser.
Municipal officials said Garsia paid penalties for two tickets and the rest were dismissed. Sayegh’s law director said some of the tickets were deficient, but a judge had upheld the tickets in a ruling. Records show a negotiated settlement 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.
Economic development director Michael Powell said Garsia has submitted 35 tenant applications to obtain certificates of occupancy.
Law director Farrah Irving said Sayegh administration officials invited Jackson to a meeting to discuss the matter, but he was a no-show. Jackson said he told the administration he was not seeking a meeting, but wanted relevant officials to testify before the council prior to a vote on the licenses.
“If this council is going to entertain a license to give permission to a business to bring large numbers of individuals to an establishment and God forbid something is to happen. Where is the accountability?” said Jackson.
Jackson pointed to a collapsing part of the Art Factory complex to make his case. He said the wall is being supported by pieces of wood.
“You have a brick wall that’s been supported there quite some time,” said Jackson. “I don’t see how that’s deemed as safe.”
Jackson lacked confidence in municipal construction official Gennaro “Jerry” Lobozzo who testified against the city in 2017 in the Art Factory case. Garsia said the wall is “stabilized” and re-assured that portion of the complex will not be open to the public.
The Art Factory was previously shut down due to fire violations. However, Garsia has worked with fire officials to address the violations.
“Everything we’ve asked him to do it’s done,” said fire chief Brian McDermott.
Jackson could not sway his colleagues by his arguments.
“There were some concerns in the past,” said councilwoman Lilisa Mimms. Those concerns have been addressed, she said.
Councilman William McKoy said denying the licenses to the Art Factory would be “arbitrary and capricious,” suggesting Garsia could have a cause of action in court.
Councilman Al Abdelaziz suggested his colleagues attempting to hold up the licenses were engaged in “petty politics.”
Councilman Luis Velez took exception to Abdelaziz’s remark. Velez raised questions about documents submitted as part of the application for the licenses. For example, Velez noticed certificates did not contain occupancy figure as is standard.
Velez also pointed out the occupancy number for every floor stated 1,000. Garsia explained the total occupancy capacity for the building is 5,000 people.
Council members Abdelaziz, Ruby Cotton, Maritza Davila, McKoy, Mimms, and Velez voted in favor while Jackson voted against.