High-profile NYC landlords under spotlight for falsifying permits

A representative for the major New York City development firm Kushner Companies refers to scores of alleged housing violations as innocent "paperwork errors."

City housing officials call them something else. The city's Departments of Buildings cited the company last week for unlawful conduct aimed at ousting rent-regulated tenants in 17 buildings across the metro. Kushner Companies is specifically alleged with having falsified construction permits and then harassing tenants through disruptive practices that would hopefully prompt many of them to leave.

They did, with the company then turning their properties into condos and materially jacking up rental rates.

Attorney Michael Cohen (much in the news of late) is also targeted by city authorities with fraud tied to his investment group's permit falsifications linked with three apartment complexes. Relevant records spotlight claims made by Cohen that the Manhattan buildings in question were either empty or had no rent-regulated tenants.

That was untrue. One 20-apartment building contained 19 such renters. Many of them ultimately vacated their units because of the legally unauthorized construction that was being carried out. Cohen reportedly purchased that building for $2.1 million and resold it for $10 million just three years later.

Housing Rights Initiative Executive Director Aaron Carr says that landlords and developers like the Kushner Companies and Cohen are able to manipulate local housing laws owing to sloppy coordination among housing entities. Carr states that their conduct provides a "window into the dysfunction at city and state agencies."

Obviously, administration needs to be dramatically improved. The New York Times notes that notwithstanding the above reports and developments, neither of the above landlords have been formally cited for harassing tenants.

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