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Tenants in Kushner building file lawsuit alleging dangerous living conditions

Tenants in Kushner building file lawsuit alleging dangerous living conditions
© Greg Nash

A group of tenants on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Kushner Companies over claims of “unlawful and dangerous construction” at four New York City apartment buildings. 

Six tenants of “Kushner Village” in Manhattan are arguing that in the construction of a new floor and penthouse apartments in 2015, Kushner Companies “circumvented fire safety and other protections required by the [Department of Buildings] including: failing to install operable sprinklers throughout the Subject Buildings; failing to legalize the height of the existing boiler chimney that services all four buildings; and other fire egress conditions that threaten the lives and safety of the Plaintiffs."

The lawsuit claims that the real estate company was required by the New York City Department of Buildings to obtain a certificate of occupancy (CO) for each of the buildings, but failed to do so, instead applying for temporary certificates of occupancy (TCO). 

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The tenants added that in addition to compensation for damages, they are seeking to bar Kushner Companies from collecting rent until the alleged safety issues in the building have been addressed. 

According to CNN, Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerPompeo becomes first top US diplomat to visit Israeli settlement, labels boycotts anti-Semitic NYT's Bruni suggests Ivanka Trump, Kushner move to North Korea or Saudi Arabia With Biden, a Saudi reboot MORE, son-in-law and senior adviser to President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinnesota certifies Biden victory Trump tells allies he plans to pardon Michael Flynn: report Republican John James concedes in Michigan Senate race MORE, led Kushner Companies when the Kushner Village buildings were purchased in 2013 and when it conducted construction and started renting out the new penthouse apartments to tenants in 2015. 

Kushner stepped down from his role as chief executive of the company when he joined the Trump administration in 2017. 

Christopher W. Smith, General Counsel for Kushner Companies, said in a statement to The Hill that the lawsuit “is just more of the same politically motivated harassment.”

“As verified by the New York City Housing Court in its decision issued yesterday in favor of Kushner Companies on these exact issues, each of these properties has been certified by the NYC Department of Buildings as safe to occupy and in compliance with applicable building codes,” Smith added in the statement, citing a Tuesday decision from the housing court certifying that a partial TCO for a pre-1938 building is sufficient to establish legal occupancy. 

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The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill. 

Earlier this year, a housing court judge ruled in favor of a tenant living in one of the Kushner Village buildings who had been sued by Kushner Companies for failing to pay rent. The tenant argued she did not need to pay rent because Kushner Companies did not have a CO. 

Housing court Judge Frances Ortiz said in the ruling that "the addition of an entire floor on the top of the building constitutes a substantial alteration, thereby requiring petitioners to obtain a C of O for the entire building." Ortiz added that "no rent is collectible by the petitioner [Kushner Village ] when a building lacks a valid certificate of occupancy." 

The New York City lawsuit comes a year after Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh sued Kushner-owned Westminster Management over alleged “unfair or deceptive” practices while renting rodent-infested units in and around Baltimore, adding that the company “victimized customers, many of whom are financially vulnerable, at all stages of offering and leasing consumer realty” in renting their Maryland properties. The lawsuit is still pending.