Kushner Companies has come under fire in the past for its shady tactics toward tenants of its buildings—particularly those who are protected by the city’s rent regulations—and a new investigation by the watchdog group Housing Rights Initiative has uncovered more alleged fraud in properties owned by the developer, which was once headed up by current senior White House advisor Jared Kushner.
According to the Associated Press, HRI’s investigation found that Kushner Companies falsified documents for more than 80 Department of Buildings work permits at 34 of its properties. On those permits, the developer indicated that its buildings did not have rent-regulated apartments, when that was not the case. The permits uncovered by HRI were filed between 2013 and 2016, when Jared Kushner was still CEO of the company.
As AP noted, “Had the Kushner Cos. disclosed those rent-regulated tenants, it could have triggered stricter oversight of construction crews by the city, including possibly unscheduled “sweeps” on site by inspectors to keep the company from harassing tenants and getting them to leave.”
HRI founder Aaron Carr told AP that the falsified documents point to “bare-faced greed,” and called it a “sordid attempt to avert accountability and get a rapid return on its investment.”
HRI has emerged as a constant critic of Kushner Companies, having filed separate class-action lawsuits on behalf of tenants of two of the developer’s Brooklyn Heights apartment buildings. In those cases, Kushner allegedly skirted rent-stabilization rules by not registering those buildings as having the required number of rent-regulated units.
In a statement issued to AP, Kushner Companies stated that it “would never deny any tenant their due-process rights” and that it “has renovated thousands of apartments and developments with minimal complaints over the past 30 years.”
But “minimal complaints” doesn’t mean no complaints; and in fact, tenants of one of the buildings named in the HRI investigation—170 East 2nd Street, once occupied by Allen Ginsberg and bought by the developer in late 2013—had previously complained that Kushner Companies had used harassment and intimidation tactics to get longtime tenants to move out. The developer then made renovations and hiked the rents for the refurbished apartments.
City Council member Ritchie Torres, who heads up the council’s Committee on Oversight and Investigations, announced this morning that the committee will launch a joint investigation that looks into the prevalence of falsifying building permits, including (but not limited to) the ones found by HRI. “Kushner Companies is engaged in a process I call the ‘weaponization of construction,” Torres said during a press conference. “There is a straight line that runs from falsified building permits to harassment of tenants to the loss of affordable housing units.”