Last weekend, the Associated Press reported that Kushner Companies — the real estate empire formerly overseen by White House senior advisor Jared Kushner — filed false paperwork with the New York City Department of Buildings in order to circumvent regulations meant to keep them from harassing their tenants out of their homes.
As a result of the investigation, city regulators have reportedly launched an investigation into 13 Kushner Cos. properties.
Via the AP:
The Department of Buildings is investigating possible illegal activity involving applications signed by Kushner Cos. officials seeking permission to begin construction work at 13 of the developer’s buildings, according to public records maintained by the regulator. The AP reported Sunday that Kushner Cos. stated in more than 80 of those permit applications that it had zero rent-regulated tenants in its buildings when it, in fact, had hundreds.
“Our building marshal is a key part of our Tenant Harassment Task Force,” Department of Buildings spokesman Joseph Soldevere told the AP. “And when they inspect a building they look into everything from the roof to the cellar to find illegal construction, and that’s what they are doing.” Soldevere also told the AP that a contractor involved in the filings has already been “disciplined.”
While the false filings were made while Kushner was running the company, the AP says that his name isn’t on any of the filings, although in some instances they were signed by the chief operating officer of the company.
In an email, a Kushner Companies spokesperson said the investigations were the result of political attacks.
“Kushner values and respects our tenants for almost 4 decades that we have been in business,” spokesperson Chris Taylor told Splinter. “We will continue to do so at the highest legal and ethical standards regardless of the politically motivated attacks against us.”
Practices like this have no doubt directly contributed to gentrification in the city. By falsifying paperwork, Kushner Cos. was able to circumvent rules designed to keep developers from pushing out rent-controlled tenants; the nonprofit watchdog housing group Housing Rights Initiative, which discovered the false filings, found that the Kushner Cos. filed “at least 80 false applications for construction permits in 34 buildings across New York City from 2013 to 216, all of them indicating there were no rent-regulated tenants. Instead tax documents show there were more than 300 rent-controlled units.”
“It was noisy, there were complaints, I got mice,” tenant Rudolph Romano told the AP. Romano also told the AP that they once jacked his rent up by 60 percent, which the company said was a decision made by the previous landlord. “They cleaned the place out,” he said. “I watched the whole building leave.”
The news of the Department of Buildings’ investigation follows Monday’s announcement that the City Council and Housing Rights Initiative had launched a joint investigation into the companies. “The predatory practices of Kushner Companies is symptomatic of a systemic failure in DOB enforcement,” the heads of the investigation, Councilman Ritchie Torres and HRI founder Aaron Carr, said in a joint statement.
Don’t hold your breath that Kushner Cos. will ever face any sort of real punishment for what it did, however: the AP noted in its report that the fine for submitting false documents is a paltry $25,000 — the Kushner family fortune is worth nearly $2 billion — and even then, the fine “is often flouted with little to no consequences,” as the city usually just hits landlords with a “demand” file an amended form.
Our incredible justice system at work.
This post has been updated with a statement from Kushner Companies.