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On the bright side, Queens has very few sawmills where damsels can be tied to logs.

A great big investigative piece by the Associated Press reveals that while Jared Kushner was running the Kushner Companies, the New York developer regularly used fake documents and harassment to drive out tenants from rent-regulated apartments so the company could rent to new folks at a much higher rate and make all sorts of ill-gotten money. As a f’rinstance, the company bought three apartment buildings in Queens in 2015 where most of the tenants had such rent protections. A couple years later, the Kushner Companies sold the buildings for almost a 50 percent profit, $60 million dollars. The paperwork filed with the city said not a single resident of the buildings was protected by rent regulations. Not just in those three buildings, but in any of the dozens of buildings they owned.

Surprise! Tax records showed the company actually had hundreds of tenants who should have been protected. It’s a very nice scam, and while it was illegal as all hell, falsifying the paperwork is a misdemeanor, and the city generally deals with violations by letting the developer file an amended document, sometimes a year or two after the affected tenants were forced out and their apartments let out for much more money.

Hey, filing an amended document to correct false information in an earlier version? That sounds awfully familiar! If Jared ever gets nailed for lying on his security clearance application(s), get ready for him to point his finger at New York housing authorities and cry, “It was you! I learned it from YOU!”

Needless to say, Jared himself was careful to not put his own signature on any of the fake paperwork, but some of the forms falsely claiming buildings had zero rent-regulated tenants were signed by other high-ranking executives, including the chief operating officer. And, as with other stories of the Kushners’ sleazy real estate shenanigans, it’s worth noting such scammy business practices are far from unique to the Kushner companies — developers all over New York and in other cities are scum too. But those other scummy developers don’t have anyone from their head offices advising the “president” on US government policy.

Back to those Kushner buildings all over New York City:

For the three Queens buildings in the borough’s Astoria neighborhood, the Kushner Cos. checked a box on construction permit applications in 2015 that indicated the buildings had zero rent-regulated tenants. Tax records filed a few months later showed the company inherited as many as 94 rent-regulated units from the previous owner.

In all, Housing Rights Initiative found the Kushner Cos. filed at least 80 false applications for construction permits in 34 buildings across New York City from 2013 to 2016, all of them indicating there were no rent-regulated tenants. Instead, tax documents show there were more than 300 rent-regulated units.

Fine, but so what? What would have been different if the company had properly noted there were rent-regulated units? Ah, well, for one thing, if that box had been checked, the city would have sent out inspectors to look closely at what construction crews were doing at the Kushner properties, because the city doesn’t want people being harassed out of their protected apartments by messy construction, hammering at weird hours, Pied Piper trains of rats, that sort of thing:

Instead, current and former tenants of the Queens buildings told the AP that they were subjected to extensive construction, with banging, drilling, dust and leaking water that they believe were part of targeted harassment to get them to leave and clear the way for higher-paying renters.

“It was noisy, there were complaints, I got mice,” said mailman Rudolph Romano, adding that he also bristled at a 60 percent rent increase, a hike the Kushner Cos. contends was initiated by the previous landord. “They cleaned the place out. I watched the whole building leave.”

Imagine that! As we like to say, go read the whole thing, because holy crap, those bastards. While many people just gave up and moved out, some went to court, like the postal worker did, or like Mary Ann Siwek, a nice lady who lives on Social Security and said the noise and mess were constant, with “drilling, drilling. … You heard the drilling in the middle of night[.]” And rats in her apartment, from an abandoned building next door. A man offered Siwek $10,000 to get her to move out, but she sued instead, and was awarded a year of free rent, and a new refrigerator.

Ritchie Torres, a member of the New York City Council, said the Kushners “appear to be engaging in what I call the weaponization of construction.” He plans an investigation into scammy construction applications.

Needless to say, the Kushner Companies have issued a statement saying they’re just shocked that anyone would think they’ve ever done anything that wasn’t completely aboveboard, that they outsource their documentations to an outside company, and “if mistakes or violations are identified, corrective action is taken immediately.” Like a year or so after the trouble-making tenants are gone and the units rented at a much more advantageous rate.

As we say, the sleazy practices alleged in the AP story don’t seem to be unique to the Kushners — Donald Trump himself once tried to force rent-controlled tenants out of one of his own luxury buildings by benevolently suggesting he’d move homeless people into vacant units, subsidized by the city — so if anything, his prominent (for now?) job may well bring attention to a serious problem in housing policy. Next, he’ll probably demand some kind of award for helping us notice.

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[Associated Press]

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