For tenants in Jared Kushner’s buildings, seeing their landlord get a top position in the White House is as nightmarish as Donald Trump becoming president is for most New Yorkers.These aren't unusual tactics for New York landlords, but you may have formed an impression that Kushner is better than this because he's babyfaced and he's not a boastful blowhard like his father. Appearances are deceiving, apparently.
"It’s disgusting. It’s insane. It’s ludicrous," Mary Ann Siwek, who’s lived at 170 East 2nd Street for more than thirty years, said after Trump, Kushner’s father-in-law, tapped him to be an official senior adviser. "I don’t know how to tell you how despicable this man is."
Kushner bought the East Village building three years ago for $17 million and immediately began what tenant advocates call "construction as harassment": renovating vacant apartments in a way that makes life dangerous and miserable for the current residents, particularly the rent-stabilized ones. "We were breathing in dust and fumes. There was plaster everywhere. My ceiling collapsed a couple times. For six months we had to live like this." At one point there was a gas leak bad enough to cause the fire department to cordon off the entire block.
... Kushner "was never around," and representatives from his Westminster Management came by mainly to offer tenants money to leave. Siwek, now retired, turned down a $10,000 offer, and says some people got only moving expenses. Within nine months, she says, three-fourths of the tenants had left.
That enabled Kushner to renovate their apartments and raise the rents to luxury rates.
Last month I noted that notices were appearing at a Kushner building in the same neighborhood saying his company hadn't paid the electric bill. I called him a "deadbeat" at that time, but maybe he was just withholding services (i.e., threatening a shutoff of electricity in common areas such as staircases) in order to drive tenants out. That post also noted "construction as harassment" at yet another Kushner building.
If you don't understand why Kushner would do this, here's why: Many tenants here in New York City have leases under the rent stabilization law, which limits annual increases. But if you drive those tenants out and make a few improvements, legally you can charge new tenants whatever the market will bear. That's a powerful incentive to engage in tenant harassment -- which is illegal, but a lot of landlords do it anyway. It looks as if Kushner is one of them -- which makes him an ideal addition to his father-in-law's team.