New York opens investigation into Kushner Cos.

Stephon Johnson | 7/19/2018, 10:24 a.m.
New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo continued his investigation into the grift operation surrounding the Trump/Kushner clan. This time, it’s ...

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo continued his investigation into the grift operation surrounding the Trump/Kushner clan. This time, it’s directed toward the Kushners.

This week the New York State Homes and Community Renewal agency announced that the Tenant Protection Unit will investigate allegations of tenant harassment by Kushner Cos. at the Austin Nichols House in Brooklyn. The TPU’s investigation will determine if actions by Kushner Cos. at Austin Nichols House violated state housing laws and regulations.

Twenty current and former tenants of the Williamsburg-based luxury property filed a lawsuit seeking $10 million in punitive damage plus compensatory damages.

Under New York State law, it’s illegal for landlords to interfere with or disturb the “privacy, comfort, peace, repose or quiet enjoyment” of tenants or engage in actions to try and force tenants to vacate their housing accommodations.

New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas praised Cuomo for his actions and said the Kushner Cos. couldn’t skirt the law any longer.

“Governor Cuomo has zero tolerance for tenant abuse of any kind, and we will aggressively take on landlords who try to intimidate people out of their homes,” said Visnauskas in a statement. “In New York, no one is above the law, and we will thoroughly investigate the appalling allegations of harassment at this or any related property and hold anyone found guilty of such abuse responsible to the fullest extent of the law. We will never stop fighting to protect the rights of tenants and ensure all New Yorkers have access to the safe, affordable housing they deserve.”

In the lawsuit, tenants accuse Kushner Cos. of using a “constant cloud of toxic smoke and dust,” along with loud drilling, to force them out of their homes. The actions, tenants said, lasted for three years. It’s a tactic that housing activists said have become widespread during the housing construction boom in the five boroughs over the past decade-plus with the hope that rent-regulated tenants leave their homes. That would allow housing companies to rebuild, renovate, and then charge market-rate rents to higher-income tenants.

In a statement sent to the AmNews, a Kushner Cos. representative said that they never received any complaints and attributed the hoopla surrounding them to the political climate in Washington.

“Kushner Companies respects and values its tenants and that is how we built such a great and successful business for more than 35 years,” said the representative. “There have been no complaints to the DHCR regarding any type of harassment or unsafe conditions. We are confident that the TPU will reach the conclusion of no harassment when they finish the rent review announced today. We understand the current political environment.”

The Kushner Cos. representative also said that the tenants were well aware of the renovations taking place, and the New York City Department of Buildings supervised it all.

“Sadly, we are caught in the middle and continue to have baseless and meritless claims filed against us,” the representative continued. “Nonetheless, we will continue to develop first-rate projects and provide our tenants with a great product.”