Monday, December 4

Kushner Cos. face NY investigation for falsified housing documents

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 20: White House Advisor Jared Kushner, attends a meeting between President Donald Trump and the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office at the White House on March 20, 2018 in Washington, D.C.

After revelations that the company lied on at least 80 housing documents while Jared Kushner was CEO, New York officials are scrutinizing the Kushner Cos.

The New York City Council is investigating the Kushner Cos. after an Associated Press report revealed that it repeatedly filed false paperwork with the city related to dozens of residential buildings it owned.

While President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner was CEO, the Kushner Cos. routinely claimed to have no rent-regulated tenants, despite having hundreds, according to construction permits reviewed by AP.

New York City Council Member Ritchie Torres says the false documentation should have been discovered long ago.

For one thing, the documents are publicly available online for anyone to see — the deception was initially uncovered by tenants’ rights group Housing Rights Initiative. For another, the construction documents filed by the Kushner Cos. contradict its tax documents, which were also filed with New York City.

“The scandal is not only the deception of Kushner Cos., the scandal is the dysfunction of the city bureaucracy,” Torres said. “The right hand of city government didn’t know what the left hand was doing.”

By claiming to have no rent-regulated tenants on at least 80 construction applications, the Kushner Cos. were able to evade city oversight that would have ensured the company didn’t harass tenants in an effort to force them out of the building to make way for higher-paying renters.

Current and former tenants of three Queens buildings formerly owned by the Kushner Cos. told the AP that they were subject to exactly such harassment, including rats, loud construction happening late at night, and leaking water in apartments.

After completing construction, the Kushner Cos. sold the three buildings for $60 million, making a nearly 50 percent profit over what it had initially paid for the buildings. It was able to do so quickly, forcing out lower-paying tenants, partly due to the falsified documents.

Kushner stepped down as CEO of the company and sold some of his real estate holdings in 2017 before taking on his current role as senior adviser to Trump. But records show that he still owns a stake in the Kushner Cos.’ residential properties, from which he earned $1.6 million in 2017.

Torres is leading the City Council’s investigation in his role as chair of the Council’s investigations committee. The position was created in January by newly chosen Council Speaker Corey Johnson, with the intention of ramping up independent Council investigations of city agencies.

“These allegations are particularly disturbing given the city’s affordability crisis,” Johnson said in a statement. “The Council has broad oversight and legislative authority on this issue and will do everything in its power to hold those responsible accountable for these alleged falsehoods.”

The Kushner Cos. has denied any wrongdoing, saying that the falsified documents obtained by AP represent an “extremely small percentage of clerical errors,” compared to the thousands of correct documents it has filed.

“This inquiry by the council is trying to create an issue where none exists,” the company said in a statement. “Kushner Companies did not intentionally file any DOB forms with typographical errors and definitely did not harass any tenants.”

But Housing Rights Initiative Executive Director Aaron Carr said the documents show a widespread scheme to deceive city officials.

“Kushner Cos. appears to be breaking the law with reckless abandon,” Carr said. “A reprehensible pattern of misconduct has manifest itself across the company’s 20,000 unit portfolio.”


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