Jared Kushner, Donald Trump's son-in-law, is expected to play a significant role in the new presidential administration. According to the Washington Post, Kushner will serve as a senior adviser, helping to oversee trade deals and policy decisions in the Middle East.
Like his father-in-law, Kushner is a real estate tycoon in NYC; he's the second-biggest landlord in the East Village, and owns buildings in Queens, Brooklyn, and other Manhattan neighborhoods as well. Of late, tenants who have lived in one of his properties have been speaking up about goings-on in their buildings.
Brick previously reported on allegations of harassment from tenants in four East Village buildings recently purchased by Kushner Companies; rent-stabilized residents complained that management was undertaking extensive construction in order to make their lives uncomfortable and pressure them to move out.
The tenants' grievances haven't abated, judging by a recent Village Voice article. Renters in one building told the paper that since Kushner purchased it three years ago, they have faced renovation-induced problems like crumbling plaster, dust, fumes, and gas leaks. They also allege that the property's management company, Westminster Management, have repeatedly visited them with offers of money to leave. (Westminster Management did not respond when contacted for comment.)
Many people have in fact moved out, tenants say; a StreetEasy search reveals that two renovated two-bedroom units in the building are now renting for $3,700 and $3,295.
The Voice article notes that Mayor Bill De Blasio spoke highly of Kushner upon the announcement of his appointment to the Trump administration, words that rankled many Kushner tenants and tenant advocates.
The Cooper Square Committee, for instance, which works to preserve affordable housing and has been organizing renters in the Kushner-owned buildings, issued a statement in response to De Blasio's remarks: "While we are in the grips of an intense housing crisis, and homeless rates are at an all-time high & virtually every regulated tenant in the city is facing harassment, Kushner has converted scores of affordable rent regulated apartments into luxury housing that rent for $3,000-$5,000 per month," the statement reads. "We say to the Mayor that Jared Kushner's actions are not those of somebody who "cares deeply about New York City.""
Meanwhile, in Williamsburg, Kushner Companies purchased a waterfront rental building at 184 Kent Street and began condo conversions, renaming the property the Austin Nichols House. Last summer, a rash of mysterious fires allegedly broke out in the building; one former tenant shared her experience of the time in a Medium post last week.
Writer Amanda Guinzburg details four separate fires that happened while she was renting in the property, as well as construction-related issues like holes in walls, exposed wires, and dust. There were also new expenses, she writes, "due to a legal loophole that allowed the new owners to increase rents dramatically, despite leases being stabilized for tax credits from the City."
After the fourth fire, Guinzburg explains, she and her neighbors wondered whether the conflagrations originated not with a firebug tenant, but with the management itself: "Was there any reason for a person to set repeated fire to their own apartment building? Nobody could come up with one. But the buyer of the building and his partners, who had invested 275 million dollars into that purchase and who very clearly wanted to quickly vacate, renovate, and sell the apartments which were currently occupied by rent-stabilized tenants? They might have a reason."
When contacted for comment, a spokesperson for the Kushner Companies said that the incidents noted in Guinzburg's story all took place last spring and summer, and there have been no fires since. He shared a letter sent from management to 184 Kent tenants on August 29th, which noted multiple, ongoing efforts to mitigate the negative effects of construction and invited tenants to submit maintenance tickets for any issues they were experiencing.
The letter also detailed the presence of 14 security guards on site and an increased NYPD presence in the immediate area to ensure safety.
Guinzburg acknowledges that the fires eventually stopped, but opted to move out anyway once her lease was up. "The place I lived did not feel safe to me. The people running it did not seem to care about the lives of those who lived there," she writes.
And one of the East Village tenants who spoke to the Village Voice—who asked not to be identified out of fear of retaliation—said of Kushner, rather ominously, "The whole country’s going to experience what we’ve been going through."
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