Kushner Cos. Austin Nichols House Renovation is Scrutinized by Residents
Kushner Cos. has been accused by more than a dozen tenants and former tenants of 184 Kent Ave. in the Williamsburg area of New York of not adhering to construction laws regarding lead paint, among other concerns. The digitally filed complaint asks the court to require Kushner Cos. to fork over at least $10 million to each of them for converting the Austin Nichols House into luxury condos without taking proper safety measures.
Kushner Cos., which is run by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, purchased the Austin Nichols House in 2015 and began renovations on the majority of the complex, which includes 338 apartments in total. Only three years after the investment, approximately 75 percent of the rent-stabilized units were left emptied or sold to new owners for more than $155 million.
“Kushner Cos. had a huge incentive to push tenants out of their apartments,” said Aaron Carr, executive director of the Housing Rights Initiative group. The Law Offices of Jack Lester is representing the residents, who allege workers tasked with converting the site did not have proper permits.
Residents further allege they frequently noticed dust in their kitchens and in other areas of their homes as soon as construction began and existing walls were removed. They also experienced periodic flooding and encountered exposed electrical wiring, a gas leak, and frequently sounding alarms, among other hazards. They informed their landlord of the circumstances in which they were living in 2015, but nothing was done to remedy the situation.
In 2018, the plaintiffs solicited the help of an industrial hygienist firm that noted dust throughout the apartments and common grounds which contained dangerous levels of lead and crystalline silica. These elements have been long linked to cancer. “As a result of the lack of enforcement, children were exposed to cancer-causing materials,” Carr said.
Digging into the matter further, the residents discovered The Austin Nichols House’s owners falsely listed the site as not being occupied when applying for permits with the city’s Department of Buildings. The Department verified it was examining Kushner Cos. properties after the Housing Rights Initiative announced in March of this year it had reason to believe the company inaccurately noted no one was living in its buildings. However, the Department stated its staff has inspected 184 Kent Ave. on dozens of occasions since construction began and found no evidence that city construction regulations had been violated.
“Somehow, despite their open investigation, it appears they continue to miss egregious and obvious violations that are clear as night and day,” Carr said. “Hopefully the Department of Buildings will conduct a more comprehensive investigation going forward.”
“The residents of Austin Nichols House 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,” Kushner Cos. responded in a statement, adding that any complaints made during the construction, which was officially completed in 2017, “were evaluated and addressed promptly by the property management team.”
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