New York State investigates Kushner over construction harassment allegations

Announcement follows lawsuit by 19 tenants at 184 Kent Ave

From: Laurent Morali, 184 Kent and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (Credit: Getty Images and Google Maps)
From: Laurent Morali, 184 Kent and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (Credit: Getty Images and Google Maps)

UPDATED, July 16, 6:00 p.m.: New York’s Tenant Protection Unit is launching an investigation into allegations of tenant harassment against Kushner Companies at its Williamsburg condo conversion at 184 Kent Avenue, the New York State Homes and Community Renewal announced Monday.

The announcement came shortly after a group of 19 rent-stabilized tenants at 184 Kent filed a tenant harassment lawsuit against Kushner Companies, accusing the landlord of subjecting them to toxic dust, noise and unsafe conditions.

Kushner Companies, along with LIVWRK and Rockpoint Group, bought the property for $275 million in 2015 and started converting many of the 338 apartments into condominiums, while some rent-stabilized tenants stayed in their units.

The lawsuit, led by the nonprofit Housing Rights Initiative, seeks $10 million in damages, the New York Daily News reported. “The intentional and negligent actions of (Kushner Cos.) have caused plaintiffs, and young children, to be exposed to a constant cloud of toxic smoke and dust, illegal noise, unsafe conditions, unregulated and unsupervised workmen performing construction activity,” the complaint reads.

A Kushner Companies spokesperson told the Daily News that “no tenant harassment” happened and that the company took “tremendous care” during construction. The spokesperson added that “no major construction has occurred in the building since December 2017.”

“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,” a company representative told The Real Deal.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

An investigation by the Associated Press found that more than 250 stabilized units in the building were emptied of their existing tenants or sold for a combined $155 million since Kushner Companies bought the building. “They won, they succeeded,” Barth Bazyluk, a former tenant who moved out in December, told the news agency. “You have to be ignorant or dumb to think this wasn’t deliberate.”

Last year, tenants at the building complained about the presence of rats, mice and ants.

“We are confident that the TPU will reach the conclusion of no harassment when they finish the rent review announced today,” the Kushner Companies representative said. “We understand the current political environment. Sadly, we are caught in the middle and continue to have baseless and meritless claims filed against us.”

During a sit-down interview with TRD in May, Charlie Kushner dismissed accusations that the company engaged tenant harassment at some of its East Village properties.

“How do you fix a broken building if you don’t create dirt and noise? I don’t know how to do it,” he said. “We take these old buildings that have broken hallways and broken stairs. We’re going ahead and fixing the stairs and the ceilings, and everything. We’re doing it to harass the tenants or we’re doing it to improve the building? I just don’t know how to do it quietly.” [NYDN] — Konrad Putzier

Update: This story has been updated to include commentary from a Kushner Companies representative.