The Kushner Companies filed at least 80 false applications for construction permits on its buildings in New York City from 2013 to 2016, the Associated Press reported Sunday.
The permit applications falsely stated that there were no rent-controlled tenants in their buildings, despite other tax forms from the company admitting otherwise. The false paperwork was filed at a time when the Kushner Companies was run by Jared Kushner, now a senior advisor to President Trump, his father-in-law. Some of those forms were signed by the company’s chief operating officer.
Tenants told the AP that they viewed the construction as targeted harassment to get them to give up their rent-controlled units, which the Kushner Companies would then be able to lease out again at a higher rate.
“It’s bare-faced greed,” said Aaron Carr of the Housing Rights Initiative, which worked with the Associated Press on the report. “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.”
Ticking the box on the forms acknowledging the rent-controlled units would have subjected the company to stricter oversight of their construction work, including surprise inspections to make sure they weren’t trying to push out tenants.
“All of a sudden, there was drilling, drilling. … You heard the drilling in the middle of night,” rent-controlled tenant Mary Ann Siwek, who relies on Social Security and odd jobs, told the AP. “There were rats coming in from the abandoned building next door. The hallways were always filled with lumber and sawdust and plaster.”
Siwak says she was eventually offered $10,000 to leave the building. She turned down the offer and sued, winning a year’s worth of free rent and a new refidgerator.
Submitting false documents on housing forms is a misdemeanor with possible fines up to $25,000, but experts say that most construction companies rectify the situation merely by filing an amended form.
Kushner Companies said in a statement that it outsources its paperwork to third parties, and if mistakes are discovered, “corrective action is taken immediately.”