Paterson Art Factory files legal action after receiving 150 summonses

PATERSON — The owner of the Art Factory complex in Paterson’s historic Great Falls district has filed a lawsuit accusing the city of harassment after its inspectors issued 150 summonses two months ago.

The summons relate to alleged violations of the illegal occupancy of dozens of small businesses – many of them art-related – that rent space at the Spruce Street site, a former industrial complex built in the mid-19th century. The city maintains that each of these tenants should have obtained a certificate of occupancy before opening its doors.

But Michael Rubin, the attorney representing the resort’s landlord, says the city is off the mark in its assertion that each resort tenant needs a separate certificate of occupancy. He also said city officials were being too aggressive in issuing so many violations, especially because the complex meets local authorities’ goal of overhauling former industrial sites.

“Who gives 150 summons to a building that does what the city wants to see happen in its historic district? Rubin wondered.

Rubin said his client, David Garsia, filed a lawsuit last month.

Officials said Garsia was running the complex in violation of area zoning regulations.

“Each of the violations is valid,” Paterson Community Improvements Director David Gilmore told the officials who worked on the summonses. “It has nothing to do with harassment. Anyone in violation is entitled to a ticket.

Gilmore argued that each tenant in the complex needed a separate certificate of occupancy. “It seems to be the common excuse whenever people get caught doing something wrong that they claim is being harassed,” Gilmore added. “If they just followed the law, we wouldn’t be knocking on their door.”

The city forced the Art Factory complex to close in December 2015 – days before it was to hold a Christmas party expected to draw hundreds of guests – due to fire safety violations.

City fire officials said those issues were resolved within weeks and the art factory was then allowed to reopen. But the closure has drawn attention to the complex, and some officials have expressed relief that the fire safety issues were uncovered before tragedy struck.

Garsia owes more than $600,000 in property taxes on the Art Factory, according to city officials.

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