The real estate company formerly headed by Jared Kushner exposed children to cancer-causing substances as part of a campaign to push rent-stabilized tenants out of their apartments, said a lawsuit filed by a group of renters.
Nineteen tenants of 18 Kent Ave. in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, contend that Kushner Cos. tried to convert the majority of the 338 apartments in the building from rent-stabilized units to luxury condos starting in June 2015.
To do so, Kushner’s firm harassed the rent-stabilized tenants with major construction all over the building, the lawsuit charges. The construction at the Austin Nichols House unleashed dangerous toxins into the air and caused a litany of issues, according to the legal filing.
“The intentional and negligent actions of (Kushner Cos.) have caused plaintiffs, and young children, to be exposed to a constant cloud of toxic smoke and dust, illegal noise, unsafe conditions, unregulated and unsupervised workmen performing construction activity,” said the suit filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court, which was dated July 15.
The dust included toxins such as “lead, crystalline silicates, gypsum and other poisonous and carcinogenic substances,” the lawsuit alleged.
The toxins were unleashed into the air last March, when Kushner Cos. began to repair the building’s façade, the court papers said.
Chris Taylor, a Kushner Cos. spokeswoman, said “no tenant harassment” occurred at the building, where it was “the intention to convert it to condominium ownership under a noneviction plan.”
“No major construction has occurred in the building since December 2017,” she added.
Before that, all the work done was with “tremendous care” to make sure tenants were protected from dust by barriers over apartment doors and on hallway floors, Taylor claimed.
The lawsuit slams the Kushner Cos. for lying about the building being unoccupied when the firm applied for work permits from the city’s Department of Buildings.
The building was constructed as a manufacturing warehouse before World War II and contains lead paint that was released into the air during the renovations, the tenants contend.
The construction has also led to a “chronic rodent infestation, illegal noise, sporadic flooding, loss of hot water, broken windows, holes in the walls, lack of security (and) accumulation of mold,” the suit said.
Before filing the suit, the tenants hired Olmsted Environmental Services to analyze the dust all over common areas, like stairwells and elevator banks.
As for compensation, the rent-stabilized tenants are seeking at least $10 million in damages and penalties.
The suit was brought with assistance by Housing Rights Initiative, a New York tenants-rights group. The organization plans to hold a press conference Monday to discuss the legal case. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is also backing the cause and is expected to speak at the gathering. He has proposed a “real-time, technology-driven approach to combating” the city’s affordable-housing crisis.
Tenants in the Kent. Ave. building have long complained about bad conditions.
Last February, a tenant in the building posted a video on YouTube of a mouse walking on a baby’s crib inside one of the building’s apartments.
"Despite repeated complaints about filth in our living environment, Kushner follows the mantra, ‘Profits first, people last,’ ” said the caption for a YouTube video posted by user “Austin Nichols House Concerned Renters.”
Taylor, the Kushner spokeswoman, said: “Any complaints that were made by tenants were immediately addressed.”
“If the tenant association, represented by counsel during the condominium conversion process, thought there was any harassment going on they would have certainly made a complaint to the AG office, which they did not,” she added.
Jared Kusher, who is married to Ivanka Trump, serves as a top adviser to President Trump.