Jared Kushner’s Family Firm Sued Over Attempts To Force Out Low-Income Tenants
Kushner Companies, Jared Kushner’s family-owned real estate firm, is currently facing a $10 million lawsuit for allegedly creating unlivable conditions to force out rent-stabilized tenants and make room for higher-paying owners.
Kushner, President Donald Trump‘s son-in-law and a senior adviser in the White House, bought the property in 2015 with two other partners in hopes of converting the apartments into luxury condos. Months later, Kushner Cos. began extensive renovations which tenants say took three years. During that time, the building received 27 official complaints from tenants describing rats, “loud and obnoxious drilling,” and a “constant cloud of toxic smoke and dust” resulting from the ongoing construction.
“We’ve investigated hundreds of rent-stabilized buildings and this is one of the worst we’ve ever seen,” said Aaron Carr, head of the tenant watchdog Housing Rights Initiative which led the investigation.
The “toxic smoke” in question had allegedly contaminated apartments with dangerously high levels of cancer-causing agents, like lead and crystalline silica, according to Olmsted Environmental Services. They concluded that “no dust controls are used during [the construction] work.”
Tenants also reported that construction workers with passkeys had barged into their homes unannounced on numerous occasions with the simple excuse, “We have permits.”
Despite complaints, the city’s building department says it sent inspectors to the building dozens of times since 2015, but never found any evidence of construction rules being violated.
The lawsuit also revealed that many tenants were forced to move when the company raised their rent to the maximum allowed under rent-stabilization rules. The predatory attack is the latest in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, an up and coming neighborhood commonly targeted by gentrification efforts.
At the time of purchase, only nine apartment units were unoccupied. Since then, over 250 rent-stabilized units, 75 percent of the building, have been either cleared out or sold to buyers at exorbitant rates with total sales hitting $155 million — an average of $1.2 million per apartment.
Kushner Cos. has since commented on the lawsuit, claiming it was “totally without merit” and that the company would defend it “vigorously.”