New York is launching an investigation into White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner’s family real estate company on allegations that Kushner Companies harassed tenants at a Brooklyn waterfront property to get them to leave their units.
New York decided to intervene after tenants at the Austin Nichols House, a rent-stabilized community, filed a lawsuit against the company for starting major construction on the property that released toxins into the community's air and made the community unlivable.
The suit claims that the building was unlivable with excessive noise and vermin overrunning the property. According to CNN, the plaintiffs, 20 current and former residents of the property, are seeking $10 million in punitive damages as well as any other compensatory damages a jury deems appropriate.
"Governor Cuomo has zero tolerance for tenant abuse of any kind and we will aggressively take on landlords who try to intimidate people out of their homes," New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said in a statment released earlier this week.
Construction started in April 2016, but it wasn’t until June 2017 that tenants reached out to Housing Rights Initiative. The nonprofit watchdog organization conducted its own data analysis and found widespread lead, lung carcinogens and other poisonous, cancer-causing materials throughout the property.
Kushner Companies denies the allegations and holds that tenants were never pressured to leave their units. The construction on the property finished in 2017, and the company says everything was above board.
In a statement, a spokesman for Kushner Companies said the lawsuit is "totally without merit" and that residents "were fully informed about the planned renovation and all work was completed under the full supervision by the New York City Department of Buildings and other regulatory agencies, with full permits and with no violations for these claims."