U.S. Markets close in 5 hrs 5 mins

Kushner Cos. says NYC probe over, but officials dispute that

Bernard Condon, AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- A New York City agency that oversees construction said Friday that Jared Kushner's father is wrong in telling reporters that a probe of false construction permits filed by his company is over.

Department of Buildings spokesman Andrew Rudansky said the agency's investigation is ongoing. That contradicts a statement by Charlie Kushner in a story posted Friday in the real estate publication The Real Deal that the agency told him the probe is "done, it's over."

Later in the story, the head of Kushner Cos. is quoted about the investigation differently, saying officials at the agency and those involved in a separate probe by federal prosecutors into the company's use of a federal program to raise money overseas "have indicated that they're shutting it down."

Asked about whether federal investigation was being dropped, Eastern District of New York spokesman John Marzulli said he couldn't confirm or deny the existence of the probe. A spokeswoman for the Kushner Cos. did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Separately, Vornado Realty Trust announced Friday that it is selling its half-interest stake in the office portion of the Kushner Cos.' struggling flagship property at 666 Fifth Avenue back to the family company for $120 million. The building has been losing money ever since the Kushners bought it for a record $1.8 billion in 2007.

The Kushners originally wanted to raze the 1950s skyscraper and replace it with a tower twice as tall that would feature luxury apartments, but their talks with a Chinese insurer with ties to ruling Communist Party and other foreign investors fell apart last year amid criticism that foreign governments may use their investments to curry favor with the Trump administration.

Jared Kushner, former CEO of Kushner Cos., sold his stake in the building last year when he became an adviser to his father-in-law, President Donald Trump.

The Kushner Cos. went on a buying spree in New York City when Jared Kushner was CEO, and there have been numerous complaints by tenants in its buildings of noise and dust and harassment that housing advocates say appear designed to chase out low-rent-paying tenants protected by city regulations. The Associated Press reported in March that Kushner Cos. submitted dozens of false applications for construction permits over several years that allowed it avoid tougher oversight in its buildings.

Charlie Kushner dismissed the tenant complaints in The Real Deal story, saying "How do you fix a broken building if you don't create dirt and noise? I don't know how to do it."

He said permit applications were filled out wrongly by a third party.

The elder Kushner also took aim at government ethics watchdogs for criticizing his family's efforts at conferences in China and in marketing material in the country that appeared to trade on its status as close to the president. The Kushners last year were trying to raise money through a federal program that grants foreign investors permanent residency in exchange for investment in construction projects, but they called off the campaign after a firestorm of criticism.

In the story, Charlie Kushner called the ethics watchdogs "jerks," adding that they are "guys who can't get a real job."