The real estate company co-owned by presidential adviser Jared Kushner, Kushner Cos., falsified paperwork to push rent-regulated tenants out of apartment buildings so they could sell them at higher prices and boost profits, the Associated Press reported Sunday.
New York City law protected hundreds of tenants in Kushner Cos. buildings from major rent hikes or eviction by a new owner. But Kushner's company regularly claimed its buildings had no rent-regulated tenants. That allowed the company to undertake major renovations, urging tenants to leave or endure the disruption — a strategy that New York City Council member Ritchie Torres called "a weaponization of construction."
Accurate paperwork would have led to more city supervision of the construction and landlord behavior, including visits by officials to ensure rent-stabilized tenants weren't being harassed to leave.
According to city documents obtained by the tenant watchdog group Housing Rights Initiative, Kushner Cos. filed at least 80 fraudulent applications for construction permits in 34 buildings between 2013 and 2016. The company claimed they had no rent-regulated tenants, when they actually had 300. The applications were all signed by Kushner officials, including at times the chief operating officer, the AP reported.
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At one East Village building that was once home to Allen Ginsberg, Kushner Cos. filed renovation permits that listed zero rent-regulated tenants. There were actually seven. In three Queens buildings Kushner Cos. purchased in 2015, the company filed false statements about 94 rent-regulated apartments. After nearly 75 percent of those tenants were displaced, Kushner Cos. sold the buildings for $60 million, a 50% profit.
“It’s bare-faced greed,” said Aaron Carr, founder of Housing Rights Initiative. “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.” HRI found that Kushner Cos. amended dozens of the forms, sometimes a year or two after their initial filing, well after tenants had left their apartments.
Kushner Cos. said they outsourced the paperwork to a third party, and “if mistakes or violations are identified, corrective action is taken immediately.”
“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.”
Jared Kushner stepped down as CEO of Kushner Cos. last year as he assumed an advisory role in his father-in-law's White House. But his continued business dealings have come under scrutiny. In late February, the New York Times reported that two companies, Apollo and Citigroup, made $500 million in loans to Kushner Cos. after Jared Kushner met with their executives in the White House.
Kushner also recently had his security clearance downgraded, after correcting more than 100 errors and omissions in his paperwork for the clearance. He originally blamed an aide for the mistakes.