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Cuomo administration launches probe into tenant harassment allegations by Kushner Cos.

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 7/16/2018

Jonathan Groff wearing a suit and tie © Alex Brandon / AP The Cuomo administration announced it was launching an investigation into tenant harassment allegations by the real estate company formerly headed by Jared Kushner.

The probe will be handled by the New York State Homes and Community Renewal’s tenant Protection Unit, the agency announced Monday.

Investigators will determine if Kushner Cos. violated New York’s housing law that prohibits landlords from harassing rent-stabilized tenants to force them out and replace them with luxury condos.

“Gov. Cuomo has zero tolerance for tenant abuse of any kind and we will aggressively take on landlords who try to intimidate people out of their homes,”said New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas.

A group of 19 rent-stabilized tenants at 18 Kent Ave. in Williamsburg, Brooklyn contend they were subjected to dangerous and unsanitary conditions starting in June 2015.

They say the construction at the Austin Nicholas House unleased dangerous toxins, like lead, into the air, according to a lawsuit dated July 15.

Chris Taylor, a Kushner Cos. spokeswoman, denies any harassment occurred at the 338-unit building. She noted that no major construction has happened at the building since December 2017.

“We have asked for a meeting with the governor’s office to explain the truth behind the sensational misrepresentations stated in the lawsuit,” she added.

Also Monday, Zephyr Teachout, who is running for state Attorney General, said she wouldn’t take political contributions from LLCs, the real estate lobby or the Real Estate Board of New York.

“I will be investigating them instead,” she said during a press conference in front of the Kushner property in Williamsburg.

“We have a crisis in our state that isn’t going away,” Teachout said. “Deep down what’s going on is the unbelievably wealthy and well-connected is using their power to push out the most vulnerable people.”

“The elderly, people who are sick, people who are disabled, those are people who are hurt,” she added. “And REBNY, Kushner, the real estate lobby, they’re all counting on their belief that people don’t know their own rights well enough that they’re not going to bring these criminal cases.”

Teachout wants to “beef up…the criminal real estate subdivision so housing companies are tried both in criminal and civil courts.”

“We gotta go after them criminally not just civilly,” she said.

a city street in front of a building © Jay Davies for New York Daily News

The Tenant Protection Unit was created in 2012 to protect rent-stabilized renters.

“TPU has conducted hundreds of investigations into tenant harassment. Its enforcement activities have led to the registration of over 68,000 improperly deregulated apartments and the recovery of more than $4.5 million in overcharged rent for unsuspecting tenants through settlement agreements and administrative proceedings,” the agency said.

Rent-regulated regulated tenants who want to file a complaint can call (718) 739-6400 or visit TPUinfo@nyshcr.org

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