Until BERNARD CONDON and GARANCE BURKE | The Associated Press
NEW YORK – Hammering and drilling started just months after Jared Kushner's family business bought a converted warehouse in the hip Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. Tenants say it started early in the morning and continued until nightfall, so loud that it drowned out the normal conversation, so violent that it rattled images off the walls. So much dust blew through canals and doors that beds and clothes were piled up in cupboards. Rats crawled through holes in the walls. Workers with passkeys pressed unannounced. Residents begging for help received a standard response: "We have permits."
More than a dozen current and former residents of the building told the Associated Press that they believe the relentless construction of the Kushner Cos, along with rental wages of $ 500 per month or more, was part of a campaign to hire tenants from rent-stabilized homes pushing and bringing in high-paying condominium buyers.
If so, it was a remarkably successful campaign. An AP investigation found that over the past three years more than 250 rent-stabilized homes ̵
"They won, that was successful," says Barth Bazyluk, who left apartment C606 in December with his wife and young daughter. "You have to be ignorant or stupid to think that this was not intended."
This view of one of the largest residential buildings of Kushner Cos. Illustrated in New York by critics as a sharp elbow business, it was led by President Donald Trump's son-in-law and later White House Advisor Jared Kushner.
The Kushner Cos. The AP said it did not bother tenants to get them out. But data suggest that revenue in the building, known as Austin Nichols House, was significantly higher than the city average for coveted rent-stabilized buildings, leaving behind a trail of trouble, disrupted lives and a lawsuit on Monday The tenants say that they were harassed and exposed to a high level of carcinogenic dust.
"We looked at hundreds of rented buildings and this is one of the worst we've ever seen," says Aaron Carr, head of the Housing Rights Initiative, a tenant watchdog whose investigation led to the pending lawsuit. "The extent and speed of tenant abandonment, the conditions they faced, provide insight into the predatory business model of Kushner Cos."
In a statement, the Kushner Cos. Confirmed that he received some complaints about the construction major renovations that ended in December 2017, but said that they responded immediately and that "tremendous care was taken to avoid dust and discomfort to avoid the tenants. "
It was said many tenants moved out when their rent was increased to the maximum (19659002). These rules limit the amount landlords can collect annually to protect tenants from being crowded out, even though rents in This building is not cheap and the one-bedroom apartment costs more than $ 3,000 a month.
The city's construction department also says that since 2015, it has sent inspectors to the building dozens of times, finding no evidence that construction rules have been violated, a discovery tha Some residents are not saying what they have experienced.
The heritage-listed Austin Nichols House at 184 Kent Avenue, for decades a department store for food and game turkey bourbon, was gutted in 2010 by a previous owner to create sleek apartments benefiting from the building's high ceilings and water views.
When Jared Kushner and two partners bought the building for $ 275 million in April 2015, they made it clear that they wanted to convert the 338 apartments – all rent-stabilized – into condominiums. All but nine were occupied, and other than paying the rent, the developers had few tools if they wanted to get tenants out.
Just months after the purchase, the Kushners began extensive renovations and torn appliances, floors and countertops were installed five years ago.
"There were consistently people in the corridor early, 8 or so, tapping things, tearing down walls, there was a lot of dust … They had fans, and they're blowing dust under the doors," says the tech salesman Marcus Carvalho, who left the building in December after six years, decided that raising the rent by $ 1,000 was not worth the lease. "I did not want to spend another minute in this construction zone."
His 679-square-meter studio, B502, sold for $ 800,000 next month.
A few weeks after Carvalho left, the woman in C405 could not bear the noise any more.
"It's like a root canal with no physical pain … It's boring from all sides," says Jane Coxwell, a cook who works late at night and writes at home during the day. "It was impossible to pick up a phone call, you could never sit and read a book or do any work."
Then came the rats, including one who addressed them with a tennis racket as it swayed on a curtain rod in their bathroom , She also had to deal with a flood after the workers in the unit whistled over her and with the constant fear that the workers would rush into their apartment at any moment, after two had tried this with pass keys, once in their underwear.
Coxwell says she has sent dozens of e-mails to Kushner's manager for over a year asking for help but little relief.
On a particularly loud day, she finally collapsed and went to a site manager and a worker standing next to her, "I understand you have to work, but I do not know how to ask," she pleaded. "Please, please, can you keep it?"
She says the men just laughed.
Much of the work was done in 2016, and then the Kushners went on a sales spree. In 2017 alone, the company sold 99 apartments in the building, according to Jared Kushner's Financial Data Disclosure Form. Broker data show another 16 apartments that were sold until the beginning of March 2018. In the same month Kushner had Cos. 151 free apartments in the building, according to a court document.
The Kushner Cos. Refused to confirm the numbers.
At the height of the construction, the tenants fought over work after hours, hitting and pounding, debris and rodents with three dozen complaints to the city's 311 hotline.
After people complained about dust, Kushner Cos. although many say that it did not help much. After complaining that workers were entering their homes without permission, the company finally set guards in corridors.
"The banner reads" Luxury Waterfront Homes For Sale, "says Jeff Werner, a banker who has lived in the building for eight years." There is no publicity for, living in a construction zone with white toxic dusts & # 39;
Dust samples taken from nine homes by the Olmsted Environmental Services consultants in May produced dangerously high levels of lead and crystalline silica, inhaling tiny silica particles with lung cancer, liver disease, and terminal lungs in the lung
A draft of the pending $ 10 million lawsuit claims Kushner Cos. And his partners have attempted to displace tenants through unbearable conditions, building noise and dust violating state and city regulations and laws Kushners, by making no reasonable provision, the residents of a "cloud of toxic smoke and dust" exposed n.
The Kushner Cos. Denied the results of the environmental report, claiming it was an updated version of a report produced a few years ago. The company did not respond immediately when asked to comment on the lawsuit.
Ronan Conroy says he complained to the coughers several times and went to the sales office to personally confront the management.
"Your strategy is to get people out, is not it?" Conroy remembers asking a desk clerk. He says the man basically shrugged, did not argue and then said, "We can release you from your lease."
Frustrated and in the face of a large rent increase, Conroy left in early 2016.
"My strong impression is you've made the building as immobile as possible so they could all move away from there."
Researchers Jennifer Farrar and Randy Herschaft contributed to the report.