Rendering via Morris Adjmi Architects
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday launched an investigation into allegations of tenant harassment by Kushner Companies at the Austin Nichols House in Williamsburg. The announcement comes on the same day a group of 19 current and former residents of the building are set to file a $10 million lawsuit against the company for creating unlivable conditions from construction noise and dust and pushing them out to make room for condo buyers. The company, run by the family of Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner, purchased the 338-unit property at 184 Kent Avenue in 2015, and has since sold or emptied 75 percent of the rent-stabilized apartments, the Associated Press reported.
New York State is launching an investigation into allegations of tenant harassment by the Kushner Cos.
We have zero tolerance for tenant abuse of any kind and we will aggressively take on landlords who try to intimidate people out of their homes.https://t.co/3gzOtQJFvG
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) July 16, 2018
Three years ago, Kushner Cos. along with two partners, bought the Brooklyn property for $275 million with a goal to convert all of the building’s rental stabilized apartments into condos. The Kushners quickly began renovating the apartments, taking out countertops and appliances that had been installed just five years before, according to AP.
Tenants constantly complained of the noise and the dust that spread throughout the building. The tenants told AP that rats crawled all over and workers would enter apartments unannounced. An analysis of dust samples from nine apartments at the building found high levels of sicilia particle which has been linked to liver disease and lung cancer.
When most of the work was completed in 2016, the Kushners sold 99 apartments in the building the following year. In March 2018, 16 more apartments sold. Documents from that same month revealed the building had 151 vacant apartments. Last fall, the Austin Nichols House was the best-selling condo building in Brooklyn.
Under New York State law, it is illegal for landlords to interfere or disturb the privacy and comfort of the tenant. It is also against the law to engage in conduct that would force the tenant to vacate.
The Tenant Protection Unit (TPU) of New York State Homes and Community will be leading the investigation into the allegations. According to the governor, TPU’s enforcement has led to the registration of more than 68,000 improperly deregulated apartments and the recovery of more than $4.5 million in overcharged rent.
Kushner Cos. told AP in a statement that they received complaints during the renovations, but responded to them immediately. The company said, “tremendous care was taken to prevent dust and inconvenience to tenants.”
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Neighborhoods : Williamsburg