Astoria, Real Estate
Mar 22, 2018

Kushner Antics in Astoria – False Paperwork Filed, Trouble Follows

Jared Kushner and Kushner Companies did a bad thing.

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21-80-38th-street-astoria-queens

21-80 38th Street in Astoria, one of the buildings affected by the Kushner Cos. shenanigans.

By now you’ve no doubt heard the news, which the AP broke last weekend—Kushner Companies, run by Jared Kushner at the time (2015), “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.” Some of those buildings are in Astoria—23-15 30th Avenue [map], 23-05 30th Avenue [map] and 21-80 38th Street [map] (source: QNS.com via Housing Rights Initiative).

Jared Kushner stepped down as CEO of the company last year (2017) before heading to the White House in an advisory position. The AP article also mentions, “he retained stakes in many properties, including Westminster Management, the Kushner Cos. subsidiary that oversees its residential properties.” You can also see the reporting by The Real Deal a year ago in March 2017 about the sale of those buildings by Kushner Companies.

The construction that resulted has been phrased as “weaponized”—that it was a tool of targeted harassment to force current tenants out so that that higher paying tenants could be brought in. The Times Ledger reports via AP that there was “extensive construction, with banging, drilling, dust and leaking water,” not to mention vermin. Queens Mailman Rudolph Romano, a tenant in one of the buildings said, “It was noisy, there were complaints, I got mice.” The 60% rent increase forced the rest of the tenants to leave. But Romano fought back, hiring a lawyer who helped him restore his rent down to pre-hike numbers. The mice are still around, though.

It just galls us, as people who love Astoria and hate corrupt behavior. As far as why Kushner Companies did it, Aaron Carr, founder of Housing Rights Initiative, says it best: “It’s bare-faced greed.” Housing Rights Initiative, a tenants’ rights watchdog organization, are the ones that gathered the work permit application documents and then shared them with the AP.

There has been additional news beyond this infuriating news. The City Council will launch a probe into the issue. On Tuesday, March 20, Astoria’s City Councilman Costa Constantinides made a statement on Facebook:

“This week we found out that Kushner Companies had filed false documents on rent stabilized tenants in NYC buildings, including in Astoria. Falsifying records in order to increase profits while taking advantage of hardworking Astorians is despicable. Our rent regulation laws protect New Yorkers from tenant harassment and intimidation, including exorbitant rent increases. Kushner Companies’ blatant disregard for our regulations simply to make a profit demonstrates disrespect of our community and our residents who have called this neighborhood home for years. Our office will research the possibility of strengthening these regulations by increasing penalties and opening up possible additional legal remedies for tenants. I will work with Council Oversight & Investigations Committee Chair Ritchie Torres as he examines this flagrant violation of our law.”

The New Observer reported that “New York City’s buildings regulator launched investigations at more than a dozen Kushner Cos. properties Wednesday following an Associated Press report that the real estate developer routinely filed false paperwork claiming it had zero rent-regulated tenants in its buildings across the city.”

And now Senator Michael Gianaris called on the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) to issue an immediate stop work order on all Kushner Companies properties until an investigation into their business practices is concluded. Here’s his statement:

“I urge DOB to immediately stop any construction taking place on Kushner Companies projects until officials get to the bottom of these serious allegations.” Senator Gianaris sent a letter outlining his request to the DOB Commissioner, who yesterday announced an investigation into Kushner Companies’ practices. You can read the letter he published today (click to enlarge):

DOB Kushner Investigation - 3.22.18
DOB Kushner Investigation 2 - 3.22.18
We are definitely not at the end of this story and will keep an eye on it. Meanwhile, are you or do you know any of the tenants at these three buildings that were affected by all of this? We’d love to know. And we’d love to know your thoughts on the situation. Leave us a comment.

AP Exclusive: Kushner Cos. filed false NYC housing paperwork [AP]
Kushner selling four Astoria buildings for $76M [The Real Deal]
Astoria lawmaker calls for probe into report that Kushner’s company booted local tenants from regulated apts. [QNS]
City Council to probe Kushner Companies’ false filings in Astoria [Times Ledger]
NYC agency investigating more than a dozen Kushner buildings [The News Observer]

About Meg Cotner

Meg Cotner was trained as a harpsichordist and now works as a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of "Food Lovers' Guide to Queens," and is a skilled and avid home cook, baker, and preserver.

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