Kushner Cos’ unpaid NYC fines surpass half a million dollars

AP, NEW YORK

Wed, Sep 05, 2018 - Page 7

The Kushner family real-estate firm has amassed more than half a million US dollars in unpaid fines for various New York City (NYC) sanitation and building violations, much of that bill incurred while US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner was running the company.

City figures compiled for The Associated Press (AP) by a tenant watchdog group show that most of the fines — US$350,000 — stretched over the past five years.

Last month, the company was fined US$210,000 for filing false construction documents.

The hundreds of violations in dozens of its buildings ranged from the seemingly minor — “loose rubbish” — to the serious, such as not getting permits for electrical work or failing to notify authorities of work that could disturb asbestos.

Most of the fines were for a few hundred US dollars apiece.

However, in many cases, the company failed to show up for required court hearings, triggering additional penalty fines atop interest payments that allowed the bill to grow.

“This is a company that will cut corners at any cost, even if it comes at the expense of its residents and the rule of law,” said Aaron Carr, the executive director of Housing Rights Initiative, which compiled the data.

The Kushner Cos said the tally is misleading because many of the fines are actually the fault of tenants illegally renting their apartments through Airbnb and businesses in its buildings not cleaning up properly.

The fines for illegal renting alone total US$110,000, it said.

“Every significant property owner in New York gets fined at some point for something and a snapshot at any point in time does not tell the whole story,” the company said in a statement.

It added that it has made good on hundreds of other fines totaling nearly US$600,000 over the same five years.

The city’s US$210,000 penalty against the firm last month came after an AP report in March that the company filed dozens of applications for construction permits claiming it had no low-paying, rent-stabilized tenants when, in fact, it had hundreds.

Those false filings allowed the company to avoid tougher city oversight to keep landlords from harassing tenants to get them to move out so they can raise rents.

The Kushner Cos said it will fight this latest penalty in court.

It does not have to be paid until the fight is settled.

The data on the company’s unpaid, older bills show it was fined after not appearing at scheduled court hearings more than 450 times stretching back to early 2013, much of that for sanitation violations for dirty sidewalks and not disposing of trash properly.