Kushner Cos. Probed Over Harassment of Low-Income Tenants

(Bloomberg) -- Kushner Cos. is being investigated in New York over allegations the real-estate company used disruptive construction projects to harass rent-regulated tenants so they’d move out of their apartments.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Tenant Protection Unit opened the probe after residents of Austin Nichols House in Brooklyn accused Kushner Cos. in a lawsuit of doing work "that released dangerous toxins into the air and created unlivable conditions for tenants, including vermin and excessive construction noise," the state said Monday in a statement.

Kushner Cos., based in New York, is owned by family members of Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law. Cuomo, a Democrat, has been a regular critic of Trump, his family and his administration, and political pundits regularly speculate he has presidential ambitions of his own.

"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," RuthAnne Visnauskas, the New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner, said in the statement.

The tenants’ complaints were first reported by the Associated Press.

Kushner Cos. said the lawsuit is without merit and residents of Austin Nichols House were “fully informed” about planned renovations that were completed under full city supervision.

"Tenants were never pressured to leave their apartments and the market-rate rent stabilization was -- and continues to be -- complied with under applicable rent guidelines," the company said in a statement. "Any complaints during construction (which was completed in 2017) were evaluated and addressed promptly by the property management team."

The Tenant Protection Unit has previously referred several landlords for criminal prosecution to the Brooklyn District Attorney and the New York Attorney General, according to the statement. The agency’s past actions have identified tens of thousands of improperly deregulated apartments and recovered more than $4.5 million in overcharged rent, the agency said.

In a separate matter, former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in March that he’d meet with tenant representatives to discuss a report by a housing watchdog group that claims Kushner Cos. under-reported the number of rent-regulated units in dozens of buildings to escape extra scrutiny of construction projects.

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