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Photo via Google Maps/Inset courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
An AP report found that real estate company owned by Jared Kushner (inset) lied about how many rent-regulated apartments it owned in Astoria.

Jared Kushner’s real estate company repeatedly falsified city paperwork to mask the number of rent-regulated apartments in three Astoria apartment buildings purchased in 2015, an Associated Press report found.

After buying the properties in 2015, Kushner Companies was reportedly able to sell the three buildings for $60 million in 2017, almost double what it paid. The company filed paperwork with the city claiming that it had no rent-regulated tenants in 34 buildings that it owned throughout the city.

Kushner stepped down as CEO of the company last year before becoming an advisory to President Donald Trump. But he retained stakes in Westminster Management, a subsidiary that oversees Kushner Companies residential properties, including the buildings in Astoria, AP reported.

In Astoria, according to the AP report, the company checked a box for construction permits in 2015 indicating that there were no rent-regulated tenants in the buildings. The buildings were located at 23-15 30th Ave., 23-05 30th Ave. and 21-80 38th St., according to documents provided to QNS by the Housing Rights Initiative, which compiled the work permit application documents and shared them with AP.

By falsifying these documents, the company escaped stricter city regulations when they began construction in the buildings.

The city will conduct unannounced “sweeps” to make sure landlords are not using the construction as a way to force certain tenants out to make way for those who would pay market-rate rent. But according to AP, tax records show that there were as many as 94 rent-regulated units from the previous owner.

AP spoke to current and former tenants in Astoria who said they experienced banging, drilling, dust and leaking water that they believe was used to force them out.

“It was noisy, there were complaints, I got mice,” tenant Rudolph Romano told AP. “They cleaned the place out. I watched the whole building leave.”

Romano also told the wire that Kushner Companies increased his rent by 60 percent. The company told AP the previous landlord initiated the rent hike.

After examining tax records, AP found that of the 94 rent-regulated units in the three Astoria buildings, only 25 remained rent-regulated by 2016.

Romano hired a lawyer to fight back against the rent hike and was able to restore it to $2,350 from $3,750. He still lives in the apartment with his wife and four kids.

A spokesperson for the Department of Buildings told AP that a contractor who filed false documents in two of the Queens buildings was disciplined and that the agency was hiring 72 new inspectors to crack down on harassment.

Those who submit false documents to the Department of Buildings can be charged with a misdemeanor and can be slapped with fines of up to $25,000.

“It’s bare-faced greed,” Aaron Carr, founder of Housing Rights Initiative, told the publication. “The fact that the company was falsifying all these applications with the government shows a sordid attempt to avert accountability and get a rapid return on its investment.”

A spokesperson for the Kushner Companies told AP that it outsources the completion of these documents to third parties and that “Kushner would never deny any tenant their due-process rights.”

Councilman Costa Constantinides, who represents Astoria, called the move “despicable.”

“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,” he said. “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 and Investigations Committee Chair Ritchie Torres as he examines this flagrant violation of our law.”

 

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