Kushner Cos., Michael Cohen accused of falsifying construction permits at rent-controlled NYC buildings

Posted On Tue, August 28, 2018 By

Posted On Tue, August 28, 2018 By In Policy

237 Henry Street via Google Earth

Kushner Companies, run by the family of Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, allegedly falsified construction permits as a way to remove rent-regulated tenants from their New York City buildings, the New York Times reported. The city’s Department of Buildings on Monday fined the Kushner Cos. $210,000 for 42 violations of submitting false applications across 17 buildings. According to a tenant activist organization, Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney, also falsified documents at three of his properties in Manhattan at 237 Henry Street, 172 Rivington Street and 235 East 27th Street.

Under New York City law, developers are required to disclose the number of tenants in their buildings who are rent regulated. Since 2013, Kushner Cos. filed incorrect data on 42 occasions, underreporting, if reporting at all, the number of rent-regulated tenants living in its buildings, the city’s buildings department found.

A spokesperson for the company, Christine Taylor, blamed the violations on “paperwork errors.” Taylor told the Times: “In no case did the company act in disregard of the safety of our tenants.”

The fines come just over a month after Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched an investigation into allegations of tenant harassment by Kushner Cos. at a building in Williamsburg. The company purchased the property at 184 Kent Avenue in 2015. Since then, they have sold or emptied 75 percent of the rent-stabilized units.

A group of current and former residents at the Brooklyn building filed a $10 million lawsuit against Kushner Cos. for creating unlivable conditions from construction and pushing them out to make room for condo buyers. According to the Associated Press, 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.

Similarly, an investment group led by Cohen, who plead guilty last week to charges related to bank and tax fraud, reported its buildings were “vacant or without rent-regulated tenants,” when actually many of the tenants had rental protections.

At the group’s Lower East Side property at 172 Rivington Street, the group said there were no rent-regulated tenants in the 20-unit building. But, according to the Times, records showed 19 rent-regulated tenants were living there. By the time the Cohen group sold the building in 2014, only 11 were left.

Tenants living in all three of Cohen’s rent-stabilized Manhattan buildings filed complaints with the city about noise and dust from construction work, according to a report by Housing Rights Initiative (HRI).

Aaron Carr, the executive director of HRI, said their report “suggests that Mr. Cohen had commenced a deliberate campaign to systemically harass tenants out of their apartments using destructive, hazardous and illegal construction practices, so he could dramatically raise rents.”

Cohen has since sold the buildings for a total of $17 million.

[Via NY Times]

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