NY state probes Kushner family for harassing low-rent tenants

Kushner family faces lawsuit for forcing tenants out of rent-controlled Brooklyn building: report

The real estate firm formerly led by presidential son-in-law/advisor Jared Kushner exposed children to cancer-causing substances in an attempt to push out rent-stabilized tenants, a new lawsuit alleges.

The Kushner Cos. bought the converted warehouse apartment building in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn and turned the units into luxury condos selling for an average $1.2 million.

NY state is launching an investigation into claims that the Kushner Cos. harassed rent-stabilized tenants in an apartment building it was converting to condos in Williamsburg.

It accused the Kushner firm in March of falsifying work permits to hide rent-regulated units at 34 buildings, and avoid potentially stricter oversight of construction crews during renovations. Those sales so far have totaled more than $155 million, an average of $1.2 million per apartment.

Kushner Companies, along with LIVWRK and Rockpoint Group, bought the property for $275 million in 2015 and started converting numerous 338 apartments into condominiums, while some rent-stabilized tenants stayed in their units.

The Kushner Cos. said in a statement that the lawsuit is "totally without merit" and they will fight it vigorously.

"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".

Tenants who have been forced out are preparing to file a lawsuit on Monday, alleging they were harassed into moving and claiming their health was affected by dust created due to the continuous construction. Brokerage data show an additional 16 apartments sold by early March 2018.

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Those rules limit the amount that landlords can hike rent each year to protect tenants from getting pushed out, though in this building the rents weren't cheap, with one-bedrooms going for more than $3,000 a month.

According to interviews with dozens of tenants, construction begins early in the mornings and lasts well after dark, with workers entering units without permission.

"The banner says 'Luxury Waterfront Homes For Sale, '" says Jeff Werner, a banker who's lived in the building for eight years.

After people complained about dust, Kushner Cos. put plastic sheeting around doorways, though many say it didn't help much. Breathing in tiny silica particles has been linked to lung cancer, liver disease and an incurable swelling of the lungs.

The probe was announced one day after 20 current and former tenants filed a $10 million lawsuit accusing the Kushner firm of using construction crews to create "intolerable" conditions at the building, including exposure to toxins and dust, rodent infestation, mold and the loss of hot water.

"Your strategy is to get people out, right?"

Frustrated and facing a big rent hike, Conroy left in early 2016.


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