Trump’s Jewish Son-in-Law Caught in Huge Real Estate Scam
At least 80 false applications were filed.
WHEN THE Kushner Cos. bought three apartment buildings in a gentrifying neighborhood of Queens in 2015, most of the tenants were protected by special rent control rules that prevent developers from pushing them out, raising rents, and turning a tidy profit.
But that’s exactly what the company then run by Jared Kushner did, and with remarkable speed. Two years later, it sold all three buildings for $60 million, nearly 50 percent more than it paid.
Now a clue has emerged as to how President Donald Trump’s son-in-law’s firm was able to move so fast: The Kushner Cos. routinely filed false paperwork with the city declaring it had zero rent-regulated tenants in dozens of buildings it owned across the city when, in fact, it had hundreds.
While none of the documents during a three-year period when Kushner was CEO bore his personal signature, they provide a window into the ethics of the business empire he ran before he went on to become one of the “most trusted advisers” to the president of the United States.
“It’s bare-faced greed,” said Aaron Carr, founder of Housing Rights Initiative, a tenants’ rights watchdog that compiled the work permit application documents and shared them with The Associated Press. “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.”
Kushner Cos. responded in a statement that it outsources the preparation of such documents to third parties that are reviewed by independent counsel, 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.”
Observers noted that much of the time, tenants are simply unaware of their legal rights and fail to complain in a timely manner, even when grossly mistreated.
For the three Queens buildings in the borough’s Astoria neighborhood, the Kushner Cos. checked a box on construction permit applications in 2015 that indicated the buildings had zero rent-regulated tenants. Tax records filed a few months later showed the company inherited as many as 94 rent-regulated units from the previous owner.
In all, Housing Rights Initiative found the Kushner Cos. filed at least 80 false applications for construction permits in 34 buildings across New York City from 2013 to 2016, all of them indicating there were no rent-regulated tenants. Instead, tax documents show there were more than 300 rent-regulated units. Nearly all the permit applications were signed by a Kushner employee, including sometimes the chief operating officer.
Had the Kushner Cos. disclosed those rent-regulated tenants, it could have triggered stricter oversight of construction crews by the city, including possibly unscheduled “sweeps” on site by inspectors to keep the company from harassing tenants and getting them to leave.
Instead, current and former tenants of the Queens buildings told the AP that they were subjected to extensive construction, with banging, drilling, dust and leaking water that they believe were part of targeted harassment to get them to leave and clear the way for higher-paying renters.
“It was noisy, there were complaints, I got mice,” said mailman Rudolph Romano, adding that he also bristled at a 60 percent rent increase, a hike the Kushner Cos. contends was initiated by the previous landord. “They cleaned the place out. I watched the whole building leave.”
Tax records show those rent-regulated units that numbered as many as 94 when Kushner took over fell to 25 by 2016.
In Kushner buildings across the city, records show frequent complaints about construction going on early in the morning or late at night against the rules, improper or illegal construction, and work without a permit.
At a six-story walk-up in Manhattan’s East Village that was once home to the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, the Kushner Cos. filed an application to begin construction in late 2013 that, again, listed zero rent-regulated tenants. Tax records a few months later showed seven rent-regulated units.
“All of a sudden, there was drilling, drilling. … You heard the drilling in the middle of night,” said one of the rent-regulated tenants, Mary Ann Siwek, 67, who lives on Social Security payments and odd jobs. “There were rats coming in from the abandoned building next door. The hallways were always filled with lumber and sawdust and plaster.”
A knock on the door came a few weeks later, and an offer of at least $10,000 if she agreed to leave the building.
“I know it’s pretty horrible, but we can help you get out,” Siwek recalls the man saying. “We can offer you money.”
Siwek turned down the cash and sued instead. She said she won a year’s worth of free rent and a new refrigerator.
New York City Council member Ritchie Torres, who plans to launch an investigation into permit applications, said: “The Kushners appear to be engaging in what I call the weaponization of construction.”
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Source: Institute for Historical Review and National Vanguard correspondents