The group of Kushner Villages tenants says the properties’ fire sprinklers don’t even work.
A group of tenants have filed a lawsuit against Kushner Companies, claiming the company is not entitled to collect rent because it has failed to maintain adequate and safe living conditions.
According to CNN and The Hill, tenants in “Kushner Village”—located in Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood—want a judge to block Kushner Companies from continuing to collect rent until it installs fire suppression sprinklers and other integral safety systems.
Daniel Porvin, a plaintiff who has lived in one of the four “Kushner Village” buildings for nearly 35 years, described the properties as dilapidated and outdated.
“I’m more concerned about a fire starting now than I used to be,” Porvin said. “The sprinkler in the hallway is outside my unit. They’re not even capped. They’re an open pipe.
“There’s no water in the pipes,” Porvin added.
The lawsuit states that Kushner Companies “have 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.”
However, Kushner Companies was quick to politicize the claims against it, seeming to suggest the lawsuit had something to do with the relationship between Jared Kushner—the company’s president—and his father-in-law, President Donald Trump.
“This is just more of the same politically motivated harassment,” said Christopher Smith, general counsel for Kushner Companies.
“As verified by the New York City Housing Court in its decision issued in favor of Kushaer 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 said.
However, The Hill notes that a different litigant won a favorable ruling from a judge earlier this year. In that case, a Kushner Village tenant was found not liable for unpaid rent because Kushner Companies did not have a Certificate of Occupancy for the resident’s building.
“The addition of an entire floor on top of the building constitutes a substantial alteration, thereby requiring petitioners to obtain a C of O for the entire building,” Judge Frances Ortiz wrote in his decision. “No rent is collectible by the petitioner [Kushner Village] when a building lacks a valid certificate of occupancy.”
Kushner Companies, claims the lawsuit, has attempted to evade Department of Buildings requirements by instead applying for short-term, expiring temporary certificates of occupancy, or TPOs.
The most recently-filed lawsuit against Kushner Companies makes a similar argument, suggesting the agency continuously undertakes construction to avoid having to get a long-term certificate of occupancy.
Kushner Companies, says the complaint, “have perpetrated a fraud by claiming that the penthouses have been continuously under construction in order to renew its TCOs indefinitely in order to avoid complying with the DOB’s requirements for obtaining COs.”
Alongside a poorly-maintained fire suppression system, Michael Maher—another plaintiff who has lived in a Kushner Village building since 1982—said continuous penthouse constructions have caused his walls and ceiling to crack, facilitating water leaks which have caused mold growth.
Both Maher and Porvin say the construction itself seems hazardous.
“The whole building has tremors,” Maher said. “It never had before they put those penthouses up.”