170-174 East Second Street, where Kushner filed false permits, photo via Google Maps
Update 3/22/18: The Daily News reports that the Department of Buildings is investigating more than 12 properties where Kushner Companies is said to have filed false paperwork in relation to rent-regulated tenants. Kushner Cos. has denied the allegations and said yesterday they are the victims of “politically motivated attacks.”
Controversies continue to pile up for Kushner Companies, the Manhattan development firm led by Jared Kushner until he left last year for the White House. Besides the major financial troubles of their office tower 666 Fifth Avenue, the firm was caught routinely filing false paperwork with the city, “declaring it had zero rent-regulated tenants in dozens of buildings it owned across the city when, in fact, it had hundreds,” according to the AP. Housing Rights Initiative, a New York tenants’ rights watchdog, compiled the work permit application documents. Aaron Carr, the founder, called the act “bare-faced greed,” adding that “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.”
Housing Rights Initiative found that Kushner Companies filed at least 80 false applications for construction permits in 34 buildings across New York City between 2013 and 2016. All indicated there were no rent-regulated tenants living in the building–but tax documents show there were more than 300 rent-regulated units. And according to the AP, nearly all the false permit applications were signed by a Kushner employee, sometimes even the chief operating officer.
Residents in Kushner’s buildings–from the East Village (pictured above) to Astoria–were subjected to extensive, oftentimes illegal construction work they believe was a part of targeted harassment to get them to leave to make way for higher-paying renters. And by filing permits without claiming any rent-regulated units, buildings were not as susceptible to stricter oversight of construction crews by the city.
The practice sometimes led to a tidy profit for Kushner Companies. In 2015, the firm purchased three buildings in Astoria. After filing false permits and harassing rent-protected tenants at there, Kushner sold all three buildings for $60 million, nearly 50 percent more than it paid.
New York City Council member Ritchie Torres plans to launch an investigation into the false permit applications. Although submitting false documents to the city’s Department of Buildings for construction permits is a misdemeanor and carries fines of up to $25,000, the law is often ignored by building owners with little to no consequences.
Kushner Companies said in a statement that it outsources the preparation of permitting documents to third parties that are reviewed by independent counsel, and “if mistakes or violations are identified, corrective action is taken immediately.”
[Via the AP and Washington Post]
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- Jared Kushner will leave role as CEO of Kushner Companies
Photo of Jared Kushner via Chairman of the Joint Chief’s of Staff/Flickr
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