A First Response to Mayor Fulop’s AEG Announcement

Mayor Steve Fulop of Jersey City announced today that he’s picked AEG-a huge commercial promoter-to run the Loew’s instead of Friends of the Loew’s.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, Mayor Fulop’s plan envisions handing the Loew’s over to AEG in a 30 year lease.

Also as part of the deal, according to the Journal, taxpayers will foot most of the bill for $30 to $40 million of renovations to meet AEG’s needs.

In other words, the RFP process that the City Administration announced months ago as an innovative new approach for the Loew’s comes down to this: Jersey City will pour tens of millions of dollars into the Loew’s in order to let a major corporation try to make money for itself here.

This hardly seems like the approach a progressive administration would embrace.

It is, to say the least, ironic: For ten years, the City government has failed to keep its commitment to FOL to provide the few million dollars needed for the renovations to bring the Loew’s into compliance with the City’s own building and fire safety codes. Had the City provided this money, it was to be paid back through a special surcharge on tickets. This failure by the City to keep such a modest commitment has been the major roadblock in FOL’s efforts to greatly expand programming; it has certainly stopped us from working with major promoters.

Under the plan, the City’s modest show of support would have put FOL in the position to seek grants and major donations to help pay for additional upgrades to the Loew’s. Instead, the City’s failure to keep its commitment undercut our ability to seek such funds. Who would even consider giving money to a building owned by Jersey City but for which the City was refusing to pay for such basic repairs?

The Fulop Administration has ignored what the City has not done and tried to imply that FOL has somehow failed to do what we were supposed to. But now, the City is admitting it will take tens of millions of taxpayer dollars before anyone else can do anything here at the Loew’s.

If the City is finally willing to invest some money in the Loew’s, it would be far more prudent and progressive for it to work with the local community based organization that has so far managed to keep the Theatre open and operating without the City’s promised support .

This, of course, is the latest development in an ongoing struggle by FOL to prevent Jersey City government from turning its back on the ideal for which the Loew’s was saved: our iconic landmark theatre restored as a true arts center that’s rooted in our community.

Friends of the Loew’s has always said that big pop concerts need to be a part of programming at the Loew’s — but in a broader mix of local arts, film, community service events and more. No matter how much our local officials want to convince themselves otherwise, you can’t sustain local roots and broad programming by putting a commercial promoter in charge.

FOL remains confident of our legal position in a longstanding agreement with Jersey City to manage the Loew’s, and so though no one likes to go to Court, we are pursuing a defense that will include an appeal of a recent decision.

But while we leave legal issues to the lawyers, we also want to make sure people know what’s going on and what the issues are.  We’ve encouraged a lively discourse about the fate of the Loew’s on our Facebook page, in Twitter, and through a special website we set up to keep people informed:  friendsofloews.com.

As the City tries to push ahead with its effort to get rid of FOL, it’s more important than ever for people to understand what’s at stake.

We’ll be posting more in the coming days, and so we urge you not only to subscribe to our social media updates, but also to share our postings and messages with your friends and followers. It is important to spread the word.