Show of hands of those who are shocked to hear that White House senior adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner’s company got over by filing fraudulent paperwork with New York City officials, in regards to their properties?
Seeing none… I will continue.
So it went like this:
In 2015, Kushner’s company bought three properties in a neighborhood in Queens undergoing gentrification. The rules in place for most of the tenants in those rental properties were to protect them from being pushed out by developers, or having their rent jacked up unfairly.
Within 2 years, Kushner’s company had sold those properties at a 50 percent profit, and it turns out, they did so by turning in paperwork that stated there were zero rent-regulated tenants in around a dozen properties they owned. The reality is there were hundreds of rent-regulated tenants in those properties.
From the Associated Press:
“It’s bare-faced greed,” said Aaron Carr, founder of Housing Rights Initiative, a tenants’ rights watchdog that compiled the work permit application documents and shared them with The Associated Press. “The fact that the company was falsifying all these applications with the government shows a sordid attempt to avert accountability and get a rapid return on its investment.”
It sounds like Princess Ivanka married a man just like her dad – unscrupulous.
Responding to the report, a Kushner Company representative claims that they turn that paperwork over to a third-party to prepare, so if there were any mistakes, those mistakes were on the part of the preparer.
Yeah, ok. But how often do those “mistakes” have to happen before you figure out something is going on with whoever it is that’s filling out your paperwork?
And was it the same third-party filling out all of Jared Kushner’s security clearance paperwork, as well?
“Kushner would never deny any tenant their due-process rights,” it said, adding that the company “has renovated thousands of apartments and developments with minimal complaints over the past 30 years.”
For the three Queens buildings in the borough’s Astoria neighborhood, the Kushner Cos. checked a box on construction permit applications in 2015 that indicated the buildings had zero rent-regulated tenants. Tax records filed a few months later showed the company inherited as many as 94 rent-regulated units from the previous owner.
From 2013 to 2016, the Kushner Company filed over 80 fraudulent applications for construction permits, claiming there were no rent-regulated tenants who would be affected. This was for 34 buildings, and in fact, over 300 rent-regulated tenants were in those buildings.
Had the company been honest about those tenants, it wouldn’t have necessarily stopped the construction. It would, however, have required stricter oversight of the work being done, and apparently, that was a problem.
Tenants in those buildings reported what they felt to be targeted harassment from crews coming in to do the work, and it may have been to drive them out, in order to move in the higher paying occupants the company was hoping to attract.
“It was noisy, there were complaints, I got mice,” said mailman Rudolph Romano, adding that the Kushner Cos. tried to increase his rent by 60 percent, an accusation the company denied. “They cleaned the place out. I watched the whole building leave.”
Tax records show those rent-regulated units that numbered as many as 94 when Kushner took over fell to 25 by 2016.
It wasn’t just at Romano’s building.
Across the city, in other properties, because the paperwork wasn’t filled out truthfully, tenants were subjected to construction going on either late at night, or early in the morning (something that wouldn’t have been allowed, had the paperwork told the truth). There was dust, leaking water, and work going on without proper permits.
At a six-story walk-up in Manhattan’s East Village that was once home to the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, the Kushner Cos. filed an application to begin construction in late 2013 that, again, listed zero rent-regulated tenants. Tax records a few months later showed seven rent-regulated units.
“All of a sudden, there was drilling, drilling. … You heard the drilling in the middle of night,” said one of the rent-regulated tenants, Mary Ann Siwek, 67, who lives on Social Security payments and odd jobs. “There were rats coming in from the abandoned building next door. The hallways were always filled with lumber and sawdust and plaster.”
A knock on the door came a few weeks later, and an offer of at least $10,000 if she agreed to leave the building.
“I know it’s pretty horrible, but we can help you get out,” Siwek recalls the man saying. “We can offer you money.”
Siwek, like Romano, refused, and chose to sue.
She actually won a year’s free rent and a new refrigerator.
An investigation is expected to begin into those permit applications. A New York City Council member, Ritchie Torres, as accused the Kushner Company of “weaponizing construction.”
That sounds about right.
Filing false paperwork can get you fines of up to $25,000, but it’s apparently not pursued with any degree of zealousness. Landlords just file amended paperwork a year or two later.
Housing Rights Initiative found the Kushner Cos. filed dozens of amended forms for the buildings mentioned in the documents, most of them a year to two later.
“There is a lack of tools to go after landlords who harass tenants, and there is a lack of enforcement,” said Seth Miller, a real estate lawyer who used to work at a state housing agency overseeing rent regulations. Until officials inspect every construction site, “you’re going to have this incentive for landlords to make life uncomfortable for tenants.”
At least 2 of those Kushner-owned buildings are being investigated by a tenant-harassment task force.
And at the time, it’s hard to say how much money the Kushner Company has earned. Out of the 34 buildings total, only 3 in Queens and a fourth in Brooklyn appear to have been sold.
The report states that some money is being made by forcing out the rent-regulated tenants and bringing in tenants who paid more.
As for Jared Kushner, himself, his signature is on none of the contracts for these buildings. He sold off part of his holdings in the company when he took the role as White House senior adviser, per ethics rules.
That being said, he retained stake in Westminster Management, the company that oversees rental properties, so he’s pulling a profit from what’s going on with these buildings.