Kushner Cos and The Distressed Properties it Owns in Manhattan – Reason to Stick with What You Know

Debt, Conflict and Vacancy Imperil Kushners’ Times Square Dream

Jared Kushner’s family averted disaster last year when a Canadian asset manager swooped in to buy their skyscraper in midtown Manhattan, which had been hemorrhaging millions of dollars. Now they’re facing a similar crisis a few blocks away.

At the former New York Times building on West 43rd Street, a graying property in Times Square, the pattern is uncannily similar: Buy at a steep price, pile on too much debt, run up big losses, fight with tenants and flirt with default.

It’s the latest example of overreach for a family that built a fortune on suburban rental properties, only to have its urban ambitions stymied. Kushner Cos. bought the first six floors of the Times building for $296 million in 2015, envisioning a multifloor amusement park in the heart of Times Square. Four years later, a toxic brew of debt, conflict and vacancies has put their investment in jeopardy.

Bright signage for several touristy attractions is displayed outside Kushner's building in Times Square.
Tenants at the Kushner-owned property include a bowling alley, a guitar store and an ocean-themed exhibit.
 Photographer: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg

Think of the building as a vertical mall with three-story neon signs beckoning tourists. There are tenants the Kushners inherited: a sprawling sushi restaurant, a below-ground Guitar Center store and a two-story bowling alley with thumping music. And ones they brought in—in the basement, National Geographic Encounter, an exhibit about oceans with humpback whales and sea lions cavorting on digital screens; on the second floor, Gulliver’s Gate, featuring detailed miniatures of the Colossus of Rhodes, the Empire State Building, Jerusalem’s Western Wall and other famous sites, complete with miniature trains and glowing skyscrapers.

The Kushners’ new tenants have a few things in common, including ticket prices exceeding $30, underwhelming crowds and financial trouble. The National Geographic exhibit has paid only partial rent since August, and the Kushners are looking for a new tenant. Gulliver’s Gate paid irregularly, prompting a legal battle that resulted in its rent being cut by almost half this year. Take a walk around the back of the building, and there’s a dusty unfinished space meant for a champagne bar. It never opened. Kushner Cos. has traded lawsuits with the proprietor, an operator of airport restaurants that is alleging fraud, claims the Kushners have denied.

A spokeswoman for the National Geographic exhibit confirmed that the attraction wasn’t paying full rent, but she declined to provide details. Gulliver’s Gate founder Michael Langer said he was “happy we were able to work together for an amicable agreement.” A spokesman for OHM Concession Group, which leased space for the champagne bar, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Leased tenants at 229 West 43rd St. at time of 2016 loan

Current tenants

Rental income lower than projected in 2016

Currently empty

Office Condo

4th floor

Bowlmor Lanes

After trading lawsuits, got rent cut by nearly half

3rd floor

2nd floor

Gulliver’s Gate

Haru Sushi

Ground

floor

Los Tacos No. 1

American Market

by Todd English

Never moved in

Cellar

floor

Replaced by The Ribbon

Guy’s American Kitchen+Bar

National Geographic Ocean

Encounter

Hasn’t paid full rent since August 2018

Subcellar

floor

Guitar Center

Sources: Loan prospectus, Bloomberg research

The missteps have added up. Kushner Cos. assumed that all these tenants would be paying rent when it piled $370 million of loans onto the building in an October 2016 refinancing, most of it from Deutsche Bank AG. In March, the company defaulted on one high-interest chunk of its debt to other lenders, and the property has often run at a loss after accounting for loan payments, according to data compiled from disclosures to investors. While there’s always room for improvement, spaces for so-called experiential retailers require custom designs and can take years to fill.

The story of how the Kushner family purchased a Times Square building only to see it founder during an economic boom is one of zealous overconfidence and a passion for trophy properties, according to more than a dozen people interviewed by Bloomberg News. It’s also a tale of how the real estate market encourages excessive risk-taking, rewarding those who use steep leverage on speculative properties even as they pass potential losses to others. Most of the debt on the Times building has been transferred to investors – it’s their problem now. Meanwhile, Kushner Cos. allocated some of the loan to pay itself $59 million, according to public filings.

Wells Fargo & Co., which manages the loan, has placed it on a watchlist for troubled debt and taken control of the property’s accounts. At one point, the building also drew the attention of federal prosecutors. The U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York subpoenaed records about the refinancing in 2017. What investigators were looking for, whether the Kushners were a subject and if the matter is ongoing is unclear. Spokesmen for Deutsche Bank and Wells Fargo declined to comment, as did Jared Kushner’s attorney, Abbe Lowell. Representatives for Kushner Cos. didn’t respond to numerous requests for comment.

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Top: National Geographic’s exhibit, where the fish are digital. Bottom: The shoe-rental counter at Bowlmor Lanes.
Photographers: Bryan Bedder/Getty and Yeong-Ung Yang/The New York Times

The former Times building and Kushner Cos. were both struggling when they came together in 2015. The 18-story landmark with a mansard roof had been the newspaper’s headquarters for almost a century, until the company moved a few blocks away in 2007. That same year, Africa Israel Investments Ltd. bought the building at 229 West 43rd St. for $525 million and began searching for a way to repurpose it, exploring everything from luxury condos to a Disney-themed hotel. When those plans fizzled, the company, led by Russian-Israeli diamond merchant Lev Leviev, decided to sell part of the site as a retail complex.

The rapid growth of internet shopping made many real estate investors skeptical. But Charles Kushner, founder of the company that bears his name and father of now-presidential adviser Jared Kushner, was still bullish on retail when Leviev’s brokers pitched him. He had reason for his optimism. In 2011, as Kushner Cos. was straining under a mountain of debt at its 666 Fifth Ave. skyscraper, selling the building’s stores for $1 billion helped pay off some of it and buy time.

Four years later, 666 Fifth Ave. was again operating at a loss. The Kushners were supposed to have improved the property and raised rents. Instead, they had been shopping a plan to knock it down and build a glittering high-rise twice as tall with a five-story shopping center at its base.

The Kushners needed an infusion of cash, and the bottom six floors of the Times building offered a tantalizing opportunity. Tens of thousands of peoplewalk by daily. The building was about half leased, but if the family could fill it quickly and bolster its rent rolls, Kushner Cos. could refinance at a higher valuation, taking any gains as profit.

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Chris Christie New Memoir, Charlie Kushner and the “Loathesome” Crime

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

Chris Christie Says Jared Kushner’s Father Committed a ‘Loathsome’ Crime

Chris Christie writes in a new memoir that Jared Kushner was determined to push him out of President Trump’s orbit because Mr. Christie had prosecuted his father.

Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor who clashed with Jared Kushner during his brief stint running President Trump’s transition team, issued a sharply personal attack on Mr. Kushner’s father on Tuesday, saying he had committed a “loathsome” and “disgusting” crime.

The former governor’s new memoir, released this week, depicts Mr. Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and adviser, as being hellbent on retribution for Mr. Christie’s prosecution of his father more than a decade ago, when Mr. Christie was a United States attorney. Mr. Christie says Stephen K. Bannon, the former Trump strategist, told him Mr. Kushner had directed his firing from the transition team, and he paints Mr. Kushner as a shadow campaign manager and chief of staff who offered questionable advice.

Mr. Kushner’s father, Charles Kushner, a multimillionaire real estate executive, pleaded guilty in 2004 to 18 counts of tax evasion, witness tampering and making illegal campaign donations. He admitted hiring a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law, who was cooperating in a federal campaign finance investigation, then videotaping the sexual encounter and sending it to the man’s wife, Mr. Kushner’s sister.

“Mr. Kushner pled guilty, he admitted the crimes. So what am I supposed to do as a prosecutor?” Mr. Christie said in an interview on “Firing Line With Margaret Hoover” on PBS. “If a guy hires a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law, and videotapes it, and then sends the videotape to his sister to attempt to intimidate her from testifying before a grand jury, do I really need any more justification than that?”

He continued: “It’s one of the most loathsome, disgusting crimes that I prosecuted when I was U.S. attorney. And I was U.S. attorney in New Jersey, Margaret, so we had some loathsome and disgusting crime going on there.”

Charles Kushner served 14 months of a two-year sentence in federal prison. It was the maximum sentence allowed under a plea agreement he had reached with Mr. Christie, but Mr. Christie sought a three-year sentence regardless, arguing that Mr. Kushner had violated the deal by failing to accept responsibility for his crimes.

“It shows that no matter how rich and powerful you are in this state, you will be prosecuted and punished for crimes you commit,” Mr. Christie said after the sentencing in 2005. “This sends a strong message that when you commit the vile and heinous acts that he has committed, you will be caught and punished.”

In his new book, “Let Me Finish,” Mr. Christie said that Mr. Kushner had consistently tried to push him out. Mr. Bannon told him that Mr. Kushner was “obsessed with destroying me,” he wrote.

To read the article in its entirety in the New York Times click here.

Chris Christie – Jared Kushner – Charles Kushner, Political Hit…man?

Chris Christie sits next to Donald Trump in a White House briefing about the opioid crisis, as Jared Kushner, second left, watches on.

Chris Christie sits next to Donald Trump in a White House briefing about the opioid crisis, as Jared Kushner, second left, watches on. Photograph: UPI / Barcroft Images

Chris Christie accuses Jared Kushner of political ‘hit job’ in explosive new book

 

Chris Christie, who was ousted as chairman of Donald Trump’s White House transition team in 2016, has written a blistering attack on Jared Kushner, whom he accuses of having carried out a political “hit job” on him as an act of revenge for prosecuting his father, Charles Kushner, a decade ago.

In his soon to be published book, Let Me Finish, Christie unleashes both barrels on Trump’s son-in-law, who remains a senior White House adviser with responsibilities for Middle Eastern peacesentencing reform and “American innovation”.

Christie blames this key player in the president’s inner circle for his ignominious dismissal shortly after Trump’s election victory in November 2016. Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, writes that Kushner’s role in his sacking was confirmed to him by Steve Bannon, Trump’s campaign chief, in real time.

As Bannon was carrying out the firing, at Trump Tower in New York, Christie forced him to tell him who was really behind the dismissal by threatening to go to the media and point the finger at Bannon instead.

“Steve Bannon … made clear to me that one person and one person only was responsible for the faceless execution that Steve was now attempting to carry out. Jared Kushner, still apparently seething over events that had occurred a decade ago.”

The political assassination was carried out by Kushner as a personal vendetta, Christie writes, that had its roots in his prosecution, as a then federal attorney, of Charles Kushner in 2005. The real estate tycoon was charged with witness tampering and tax evasion and served more than a year in federal prison.

Even for a White House that has generated an extraordinary cornucopia of hypercritical kiss-and-tell books, Christie’s is exceptional for its excoriating description of events at which he was present. As he points out in Let Me Finish, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian before publication on 29 January, none of the other authors “has known Trump for as long or as well as I have – or was right there in the room when much of this occurred”.

It is also exceptional as a chronicle of the score-settling and animosity that drove key decision-making in Trump’s nascent presidency. As political scientists look for the roots of the mayhem in the current White House, the book provides new clues.

At the heart of it is Christie’s desire to tell the American people that had his transition plan been adopted after Trump’s shock victory on election night in November 2016, the Trump White House would be a much more effective place today. Once he had been tossed overboard, the new transition team led by Vice President-elect Mike Pence had a “thrown-together approach” that led to appalling choices of senior personnel “over and over again”.

But the emotional heart of the book is Christie’s account of the actions of Jared Kushner. In this telling, Christie was ditched by a young man who made it his business to discredit and denounce him because of what he had done to his father.

“The kid’s been taking an ax to your head with the boss ever since I got here,” Bannon confessed at Christie’s dismissal.

Christie was the US attorney in New Jersey when he spearheaded the prosecution of Charles Kushner for witness tampering. The case arose out of a bitter family feud.

The elder Kushner hired a sex worker to seduce his brother-in-law Bill Schulder, then filmed them having sex in a motel and sent the tape to his own sister, Esther. The bizarre plot was an attempt to blackmail the Schulders into keeping their silence about Bill’s knowledge of Charles’s fraudulent activities.

Charles Kushner pleaded guilty to 18 charges and served 14 months in a federal prison in Alabama.

In one of the most visceral passages of the book, Christie recounts for the first time how Jared Kushner badmouthed him to Trump in April 2016, pleading with his father-in-law not to make Christie transition chairman. Remarkably, he did so while Christie was in the room.

“He implied I had acted unethically and inappropriately but didn’t state one fact to back that up,” Christie writes. “Just a lot of feelings – very raw feelings that had been simmering for a dozen years.”

Kushner went on to tell Trump that it wasn’t fair his father spent so long in prison. He insisted the sex tape and blackmailing was a family matter that should have been kept away from federal authorities: “This was a family matter, a matter to be handled by the family or by the rabbis.”

Trump, in an effort to settle the dispute, proposed a dinner between him, Jared and Charles Kushner, and Christie. Much to Christie’s relief, Jared didn’t acquiesce.

In the end, Trump gave Christie the job. But according to Let Me Finish, Kushner had the final say.

Let Me Finish bears all the hallmarks of classic, brash Chris Christie. Its language is blunt, caustic and at times self-satisfied, much like his political reputation.

It has its lighter moments. At his first meeting with Trump in 2002, at a dinner in the Trump International Hotel and Tower, in New York, Trump ordered his food for him. He chose scallops, to which Christie is allergic, and lamb which he has always detested. Christie recalls wondering whether Trump took him to be “one of his chicks”.

At another dinner three years later Trump told the obese Christie he had to lose weight. Addressing him like one of the contestants in Miss Universe, the beauty contest organisation that he owned, Trump said “you gotta look better to be able to win” in politics.

Trump returned to the theme of girth during the 2016 presidential campaign, exhorting Christie to wear a longer tie as it would make him look thinner.

Meanwhile, Kushner is not the only subject of Christie’s wrath. The author is scathing about Michael Flynn, the retired general who was briefly national security adviser before resigning over his dealings with Russia, and who is now cooperating with the special counsel and awaiting sentencing for lying to the FBI.

In one of the book’s more memorable put-downs, Flynn is dubbed “the Russian lackey and future federal felon”. Christie also calls the former general “a train wreck from beginning to end … a slow-motion car crash”.

However, one central character escapes relatively unscathed: Trump himself. The president is utterly fearless and a unique communicator Christie writes – and his main flaw is that he speaks on impulse and surrounds himself with people he should not trust.

Christie gives a detailed account of his effort to be named as Trump’s vice-presidential running mate in the summer of 2016, after his own bid for the Republican nomination for president failed. He detects yet again the hand of Kushner – and that of his wife and Trump’s beloved daughter, Ivanka Trump – working against him.

An anonymous “high-ranking Trump staffer” is depicted calling to warn that “the family is very upset that he says it will be you”. A mollifying call from son Eric Trump follows but that is as close as Christie gets. Trump chooses ultra-conservative Indiana politician, Mike Pence, after a mystifying wait. Christie repeatedly says he was not disappointed.

 Chris Christie says he turned down numerous roles in the administration but was frustrated in not being offered vice-president or attorney general. Photograph: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

US attorney general, the other role Christie would have accepted, also eluded him. As with most appointments he is scathing about the man who got the job, Jeff Sessions, whom he calls “not ready for primetime” and whose recusal from the Russia investigation he blames for its ever-growing scale. Trump did apparently offer Christie “special assistant to the president in the White House”, which he turned down, prompting from the president-elect “an expression that said maybe he hadn’t heard me right”.

Christie would have taken chair of the Republican National Committee and seemed poised to get it. But according to Christie, once again Trump’s family worked against him. In a near-comic scene, Reince Priebus, the RNC chair who would become Trump’s first chief of staff, offers him role after role in a frantic attempt to fulfil the directive from Trump to “make Chris happy”. One by one, Christie turns down labor secretary, homeland security secretary and ambassadorships in Rome and the Vatican.

Christie is relatively forgiving of Kushner in the context of the infamous June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between the candidate’s son-in-law, his son Donald Jr, his campaign manager and a group of Russians, some with Kremlin ties, offering “dirt” on his Democratic presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton. Bannon memorably told the author Michael Wolff the meeting was “treasonous” but Christie writes that taking the meeting was merely “dumb” or, in the case of Kushner and Trump Jr, a “sign of profound inexperience”. He faults Trump’s response to Robert Mueller’s investigation into links with Russia, but does not go into detail about the work of the special counsel.

He does, however, contend that Kushner misjudged two Russia-related firings: that of Flynn in February 2017 and most famously that of the FBI director James Comey in May the same year. According to Christie, Kushner thought firing Flynn would end talk of links between the Trump campaign and Russia – it did not – and that firing Comey would not provoke “an enormous shit-storm” in Washington. It did.

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Creative Map-Making and EB-5 Funds…. How Grants to Help the Poor are Making Jared Kushner Richer(er)

http://longisland.news12.com/story/35560404/kushners-used-creative-mapmaking-to-gain-visa-tied-funds

Creative Kushner mapping underscores holes in visa program

NEW YORK (AP) – The Kushner Cos. engaged in a bit of creative mapmaking to qualify one of its buildings in a booming New Jersey waterfront neighborhood across from Manhattan for a federal visa-for-investment program targeting struggling areas.

Emails obtained by The Associated Press show that the family of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner placed its 65 Bay Street building in Jersey City in a map stringing together two dozen other areas, some with high unemployment.

The map was included in a 2015 application to the EB-5 visa program that allows overseas investors to obtain U.S. residency in exchange for investments of $500,000 or more in rural areas or those with high unemployment.

The maps are legal, and many other developers engage in the practice. But the practice is one of the reasons the EB-5 visa program has come under criticism from both Democrats and Republicans.

James Yolles, a spokesman for the Kushner Cos., declined to comment. The Kushner property is co-owned with developer KABR Group. KABR has not responded to voicemail and email requests for comment.

The special maps were reported earlier by The Washington Post.

The building at 65 Bay Street has licensed the Trump name from the president’s company, and is better known as “Trump Bay Street.” It received millions from wealthy overseas investors through the EB-5 program.

The Kushner Cos. was recently pitching to potential EB-5 investors in China for another Jersey City property. Called One Journal Square, it is a planned 79-story two tower complex in a struggling area of the city. The company is seeking 300 wealthy Chinese to invest a total of $150 million.

Jared Kushner’s sister, Nicole Kushner Meyer, created a stir in March after reports she had mentioned her brother, a senior adviser to Trump, in a presentation in China. Marketing materials for the event also cited the Kushner family’s “celebrity” status.

The Kushner Cos. said Meyer’s intention was not to use the connection to the White House to lure investors. Jared Kushner stepped down as CEO of the Kushner Cos. when he joined the White House. His lawyer has said that he has sold his stake in One Journal Square.

To handle the mapmaking for Trump Bay Street, the Kushner Cos. turned to Evans, Carroll & Associates, an economic consultancy in Boca Raton, Florida.

On May 6, 2015, Evans emailed the New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development requesting that it review a proposed map stretching over two dozen census tracts. The map formed an odd shape, with some relatively low unemployment areas separated by a few miles to high unemployment ones.

By the end of the month, came New Jersey’s reply: The areas included in the map, called a Targeted Employment Area, had an overall unemployment rate of 9.8 percent – high enough to qualify for the EB-5 program.

The unemployment rate for the single census tract that includes 65 Bay Street was not mentioned in the emails, but has typically been much lower, according to Dave Evans of Evans, Carroll & Associates. Evans said the unemployment rate last year for the census tract that includes 65 Bay Street averaged 1.3 percent.

In order to qualify for EB-5 financing, a building needs to be in a Targeted Employment Area with unemployment 150 percent above the average U.S. rate.

Critics have faulted the EB-5 program for failing to bring investment into poor communities as intended. By gerrymandering together rich geographic areas with poor ones, developers have managed to win approval from economic development authorities for luxury projects in Manhattan, California’s Beverly Hills and Miami’s South Beach.

Earlier this year, Evans, Carroll & Associates emailed New Jersey state officials for Kushner’s One Journal Square project, too.

To read the article in its entirety click here.

 

Gerrymandering Human Lives – How Jared Kushner and “Cos” Stripped the Poor to Build for the Rich

 

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Kushner tapped program meant for job-starved areas to build a luxury skyscraper

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-kushner-eb5-20170601-story.html

Jared Kushner and his real estate partners wanted to take advantage of a federal program in 2015 that would save them millions of dollars as they built an opulent, 50-story residential tower in Jersey City, N.J.’s booming waterfront district, just across the Hudson River from Lower Manhattan.

There was just one problem: The program was designed to benefit projects in poor, job-starved areas.

So the project’s consultants got creative, records show.

They worked with state officials in New Jersey to come up with a map that defined the area around 65 Bay Street as a swath of land that stretched nearly four miles and included some of the city’s poorest and most crime-ridden neighborhoods. At the same time, they excluded some wealthy neighborhoods only blocks away.

The tactic — critics liken it to the gerrymandering of legislative districts — made it appear that the site was in an area with extraordinarily high unemployment, allowing Kushner Cos. and its partners to get $50 million in low-cost financing through the EB-5 visa program.

The move was legal, and other developers have used similar strategies in recent years, often aided by state officials who welcome the infusion of cash. But it illustrates how Kushner — who ran his family’s real estate company before he became a senior advisor to President Trump — and his partners exploited a loophole in a federal program that prominent members of both parties say has been plagued by fraud and abuse.

On the south side of Jersey City, which has some of the most entrenched poverty in the New York City region, many people interviewed one day last week were surprised that their neighborhood’s troubles were part of the reason that 65 Bay Street got cheap financing.

“That’s very sad,” said Pastor Shyrone Richardson of the World Outreach Christian Church in the struggling Bergen-Lafayette section of Jersey City. “Unfortunately, the people who are benefiting from this are not the people in this area.”

Richardson’s church is in a five-block area where nearly one in five were jobless and there were three fatal shootings in 2015, according to an analysis of crime and census data.

His neighborhood seems a world away from the gleaming office towers and trendy cafes that surround 65 Bay Street. The Jersey City waterfront saw a building boom after 9/11 that transformed the area into one of the hottest real estate markets in the New York metro region, drawing residents from Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Apartments in the Bay Street building, marketed as Trump Bay Street, rent for up to $4,700 a month and offer sweeping views of Lower Manhattan. A nearby commuter train shuttles passengers to the World Trade Center within minutes. The area within a roughly three-block radius around the building had an unemployment rate of just 2.6% in 2015, according to census data.

Under the EB-5 program, a wealthy foreigner can get a fast-track visa granting U.S. residency by investing at least $500,000 in a project in a “targeted employment area.” To qualify, the area must have an unemployment rate at least 1½ times the national average. For developers, the terms of the investment are more favorable than a bank loan.

The Trump administration is considering whether to adopt changes that would prevent EB-5 gerrymandering. Kushner has said he will recuse himself from any discussions on the program.

Kushner Cos., meanwhile, is rushing to raise $150 million in low-cost financing through EB-5 for a separate project in Jersey City: a pair of luxury towers in an area called Journal Square. Kushner’s sister caused a stir this month when she mentioned her brother in a pitch for the project to investors in China.

For that project, too, the company is linking the development to blighted neighborhoods miles to the south while excluding adjoining neighborhoods that have lower unemployment rates, records show.

An executive at U.S. Immigration Fund-NJ, a firm helping Kushner Cos. raise EB-5 money for both projects, defended the practice. Mark Giresi, chief operating officer, called it a “common sense” approach that reflects the broader economic reality of each project’s surroundings. He also said jobs created by the project could be filled by workers from the depressed areas only miles away.

“In large urban markets like Jersey City these types of real estate development projects create much-needed jobs, particularly in the construction industry across areas of the city that cover multiple census tracts,” Giresi said in a statement. Census tracts are government-defined neighborhoods, sometimes as small as a few blocks.

Giresi said the Bay Street project created more than 1,280 construction and other jobs and that 1 Journal Square is projected to create 6,600. Under the program, each $500,000 investment must create at least 10 jobs.

The program’s critics say that cobbling together multiple census tracts to push up the average unemployment rate too often benefits developers and areas that do not need the government help. They point to EB-5 projects in prosperous areas of Manhattan, downtown Washington and in Beverly Hills.

“Many of these affluent-area projects would have been built and jobs created without the infusion of EB-5 capital,” said Gary Friedland, a scholar in residence at New York University’s Stern School of Business. “Consequently, deserving projects can’t be built and the resulting jobs are lost because the projects are deprived of the essential capital to proceed.”

The government caps the number of EB-5 visas it issues each year, and most of the resulting investment goes to high-profile projects in prosperous areas.

A spokeswoman for Kushner Cos. declined to comment, as did Jared Kushner’s spokesman.

Jared Kushner has sold his interest in 1 Journal Square but maintains an ownership stake in 65 Bay Street. The KABR Group, a partner in the luxury tower on Bay Street, also declined to comment.

Kushner’s prominence is drawing renewed attention to the practice, which has been the subject of years of debate in Congress and furious lobbying by the real estate industry. In interviews along Martin Luther King Drive in Jersey City last week, there was a common reaction.

“It’s like we’re being used,” said Helen Gathers, a registered nurse who has lived in Jersey City for 38 years.

Down the block, Laville Penn, a 54-year-old who was released from prison in early 2016 after a drug possession conviction, was looking for employment. He had been searching for steady work in construction for more than six months, he said, but had found only temporary day jobs.

Now, hoping to pick up some hours, he stopped by a lot where a friend was doing contract demolition work. Penn said the high-rises built in Jersey City are typically union jobs. “It’s difficult to get into the union if you don’t have certification or experience,” he said.

The EB-5 program was initiated in 1990 to help attract foreign investment to rural and poor, urban areas that have trouble drawing conventional financing or investment.

But developers are free to string together an endless number of contiguous census tracts until they reach the unemployment threshold. In the years since the Great Recession, this has often meant finding the nearest poor area and drawing a line to it.

Documents obtained from New Jersey through a public records request show just how easy that was for Kushner Cos. and KABR Group as they sought to build the Bay Street tower.

On May 6, 2015, Michael Evans, a consultant working on behalf of the project, sent an email to an official in the New Jersey Department of Labor asking that the Bay Street area be deemed an area with high unemployment. Individual states are responsible for reviewing unemployment data and issuing letters certifying that projects qualify for the federal program.

Evans wrote that such an area could be created by combining 26 census tracts in Jersey City that stretch more than two miles to the northwest and three miles to the southwest.

“The client as always is in a great hurry so if you can e-mail me the letter as soon as it is finished it would be appreciated,” Evans wrote. Evans did not respond to a request for comment.

There was a problem, though. The census tracts weren’t contiguous — and didn’t include the the project itself.

Three weeks later, the state, wrote back that the project qualified under a different but similarly attenuated configuration that achieved the same goal. New Jersey’s state website says it will help developers “perform a special tabulation for the area” of their project using census data.

The state-approved map strung together 16 census tracts that went nearly four miles to the southwest, crossing the New Jersey Turnpike and heading south to the Bergen-Lafayette and Greenville areas. Together, those neighborhoods had an average unemployment rate that edged just higher than 9.3%, the qualifying rate at the time.

That probably saved Kushner and his partners millions of dollars.

Developers typically pay only 4% to 8% interest annually on money raised through EB-5, experts said. Conventional financing can carry an interest rates of between 12% and 18%. On the $50 million for Bay Street, that difference amounts to millions of dollars annually over the life of the loan.

On Jan. 5 of this year, a little over two weeks before Trump was to take office, another consultant working on behalf of Kushner Cos. got in touch with New Jersey state officials again. This time, it was about 1 Journal Square. The census tract where it is located had an unemployment rate of 2.9% in 2015, but the consultant suggested adding five neighborhoods to triple that unemployment rate.

The approval came four days later, records show. Kushner’s sister went to China in May seeking the $150 million in EB-5 financing.

The Trump administration will decide in the coming months whether to enact rules, proposed by the Obama administration, limiting the census tracts that can be considered for EB-5 eligibility to only those directly adjacent to the tract containing the development.

The proposal is being considered by Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly. Under the proposed rules, neither the 65 Bay Street tower nor the proposed 1 Journal Square project would be in a “targeted employment area.”

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-kushner-eb5-20170601-story.html

The Jared Kushner Chronicles – a Rabbi’s Analysis – Where is Kushner’s Charity?

Preface:

We would like to post a disclaimer. Today is Shavuot and it is conceivable that re-posting this on a Chag Regalim when we are not supposed to be working is not something that the author of the piece would have wanted. Suffice it to say, we are some observant and some not so. We do, however, respect those who are observant and keep the chagim and Shabbat. To that end, we are posting but have had this done by the non-Jews among us.

As another note, our decision to repost Rabbi Arthur Waskow’s piece is in no way indicative of any support for this site or its contents. He may one day write a piece condemning us. Should he ask us to take his article down, we will do so without hesitation. Therefore we request that you, our readers, kindly not make any assumptions or come to any conclusions with regard to the respected Rabbi’s writing or this site. We highly value his commentary here. Whether or not he thinks highly of our site is an opinion only he can voice.

Finally, many of the people named in our previous posts, utterly destroyed by Jared Kushner and his companies can be found by searching their names online. Should you feel like giving Tzedukkah or passing something kind forward, we invite you to send them money to help support their lives. Jared Kushner and his companies have filed hundreds of lawsuits against people whose major misfortune was signing a lease with those companies. There are too many to help and it is solely Kushner and his unconscionable companies who should be helping them. However, since Kushner’s greed seems to make that unlike and given that some of these people are in dire straights. If you have something to give, please do so.

To view his piece in its original form. Please see the Shalom Center: https://theshalomcenter.org/torah-vs-jared-kushner

Chag Sameach.

LM

https://theshalomcenter.org/torah-vs-jared-kushner

The Torah vs. Jared Kushner

Tonight we enter the festival that has come to mean standing again, each year, at Sinai. What does it mean for us to do this seriously, taking Torah deep into our lives, challenging ourselves to live by its deepest teachings?

What would it mean to bring Torah to bear on one rich, powerful, and unjust Jew –- Jared Kushner?

Through the last 2,000 years or so of Jewish history, generations of rabbis have defined themselves – our selves – as heirs of the Prophets, not of the priests. Heirs of the Prophetic commitment to challenge unjust and destructive behavior, to reinterpret Torah for the sake of renewing life as the world around us and within us changed.

When Jews lived in self-contained communities, social if not physical ghettos, that degree of social control was workable for the sake of life-giving, justice-living Torah. But as we – for good reason!  — left such social ghettos, the ability of the rabbis or of the community as a whole to rebuke and end destructive and unethical behavior dwindled. So that lifts up the question: What could the Jewish community of today do about such behavior?

I want to lift up a perfect example of how Torah values are trampled underfoot even while the semblance of piety is claimed.  A story of one man who at this moment holds great power and exemplifies in his own person the “kleptocracy” – rule by thieves – that now afflicts us:

The New York Times Magazine of May 23 featured an article entitled “Jared Kushner’s Other Real Estate Empire.”  It describes in stomach-turning detail how Kushner’s real-estate firm, using several shell companies to hide its ownership from public view, has become an oppressor of the poor.

His companies have used false and brutal behavior toward low-income people who are tenants and even former tenants of the Kushner-owned properties, to extract money from them that in fact they don’t owe, ruining their families and their lives.

Since they can’t afford the lawyers who could defend them, they sink deeper and deeper into debt, disaster, and despair.

It seems to me that this behavior by a very high-profile Jew who claims not only the ethnic identity but the religious conviction is exactly what my grandmother called a chillul hashem.

Chillul,” from the same root as “challil,” the hollow flute,  means  hollowing-out — in this case, hollowing out God’s Name.. Since one of the mystics’ metaphors for God is “Tree of Life,” the “hollowing” is an especially powerful imagery.

A person who seems on the outside to be celebrating a living, thriving Sacred Tree of Life has hollowed out all the life-juice within.

The seemingly pious behavior of a seemingly pious Jew actually shatters Torah —  not in the private and self-contained way of a Jew who decides to eat pork; rather, in a way that shatters decency and justice in the public sphere, for many victims.

I urge you to see the article for yourself at —

<https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/23/magazine/jared-kushners-other-real-estate-empire.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=image&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news>

Kushner’s behavior teaches a vile version of what Judaism and the Jewish people are. When Jews lived in self-contained communities, such an ethical and religious violation could be confronted, rebuked, perhaps punished, even healed by repentant self-correction.

Now it is harder. But perhaps it is still possible. I recall the moment when a small group of rabbis in Northern California called themselves  ”the Redwood Rabbis.” With help from The Shalom Center, they challenged a Jewish corporation-owner whose business was logging magnificent 2,000-year-old redwood trees to make paneling for rich people’s basements. The corporation’s own annual report said that redwood paneling without knots sold better, and it came only from ancient trees.

We gathered on Tu B’Shvat, the RebirthDay of the Trees and of the sacred Tree of Life, to “trespass” on his land to rebuke his killing of these sacred trees of life. We placed a critical ad in his home-town Jewish newspaper just before Yom Kippur to call him to do tshuvah.

We voted inside and demonstrated outside when his stockholders gathered for the annual corporate meeting.

And finally, reluctantly, he sold the groves of ancient redwoods to the California and American governments to be protected.

If rabbis then could see the destruction of these trees as a violation of Torah, what could we say now about acts that cruelly destroy the  lives of hard-working human beings? Could we challenge Mr. Kushner in similar ways? If we did, would we risk encouraging anti-Semitism? Or would we risk it more by keeping silent?

Tonight we face the Festival of Shavuot and read the Book of Ruth. It celebrates two people: a penniless foreigner, an immigrant from a despised and hostile nation, a woman unprotected by a man – and  a wealthy landholder who not only obeyed but affirmed the Torah’s command to make sure the poor and the immigrant had dignity and a decent livelihood. Could any teaching be more clear about the malfeasance of Jared Kushner?

Since the NY Times article on Kushner’s domestic business cruelties, there have emerged claims he may have negotiated with the Putin government of Russia in clandestine ways. And Politico has published an article suggesting his connections with the Lubavitch Chabad organization are intertwined with Chabad’s specially cozy relationship with Putin, in a way to benefit him and his father-in-law both financially and politically.

<http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/04/the-happy-go-lucky-jewish-group-that-connects-trump-and-putin-215007>

These allegations may or may not be accurate. They merit close study. But the cruelty of his business dealings in Baltimore and elsewhere is clear, already proved.

Most American Jews have made clear that they do not view Mr. Kushner or his kleptocratic and authoritarian bully of a father-in-law as heroes.

But the established “major” organizations have so far not rebuked such behavior by rich Jews, nor have the rabbis who might be thought to be the guardians of Torah.  What more might we do to stand again at Sinai and to clarify what Judaism ought to be, in actual practice?

Blessings that we come to live more fully in a a world that as the ancient Rabbis taught, can stand up straight only if it stands upon three pillars: Emet, Tzedek, v’Shalom: Truth, Justice, and Peace —

Arthur

JK2 Westminster – Jared Kushner’s Real Estate Empire and the Lives He Has Destroyed, Humiliated, Nicked and Dimed.. Have you no Conscience???

20170523-kamiia-warren-inline

The Beleaguered Tenants of ‘Kushnerville’

Tenants in more than a dozen Baltimore-area rental complexes complain about a property owner who they say leaves their homes in disrepair, humiliates late-paying renters and often sues them when they try to move out. Few of them know that their landlord is the president’s son-in-law.

https://www.propublica.org/article/the-beleaguered-tenants-of-kushnerville?

Victims of Jared Kushner’s Greed and Jeffrey Tapper’s Profitable Lawyering:

  1. Kamiia Warren – single mother – sued for thousands over 3 years and 112 actions

  2. Jasmine Cox – Maggots – Sewage flowing out of kitchen sick – sued for replacing carpet

  3. Joan Beverly  – pancreatic cancer victim sued for thousands

  4. Katherine Silver – University Student – eviction proceedings while away, no heat or hot water and sued for rent and court costs

  5. Joan Beverly’s Daughter Lennettea – defending dying mother who signed her lease for her

  6. Tyrone Beverly – Joan Beverly’s widower still being pursued for payments

  7. Showanda Hough – A victim who fought back – exception – Judge found for Hough

  8. Alishia Jamesson and Fiance Keith Riggs – Paid to fix holes in walls – remain unrepaired, no refrigerator for months

  9. Marquita Parmely – truck driver – mouse infestation

  10. Chris Freimiller – leaks from the toilet and ceiling damage and constant late fees

  11. Jen Jackson – mold problem remains unfixed and admonished for speaking with press

  12. Mike McHargue  and girlfriend Patricia Howell

 

“When Kushner Companies finally responded to my questions about the cases, they essentially affirmed Hertz’s reasoning. As manager for the Baltimore complexes, the company had a “fiduciary obligation” to its ownership partners to collect as much revenue as it could, said Kushner Companies’ chief financial officer, Jennifer McLean, in a written response. She said the company’s legal costs have been “minimal” compared with what it seeks to recover.
McLean declined to comment on several cases, including Kamiia Warren’s. But she said the pursuit of Joan Beverly, the woman dying of cancer, was justified. “This tenant owed the landlord $3,819.16,” she said in the written statement. “As property manager, it’s our job to collect rent payments.”
In general, “Westminster Management only takes legal action against a tenant when absolutely necessary,” McLean said. “If legal action is pursued, however, the company follows guidelines consistent with industry standards.” She added: “While taking a tenant to court is far from an ideal outcome, that option — and clear rules governing it — must exist as a last resort.””
https://www.propublica.org/article/the-beleaguered-tenants-of-kushnerville?

 

Meet Jared Kushner, scumbag slumlord

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2017/5/29/1665349/-Meet-Jared-Kushner-scumbag-slumlord

Did you know Trump son-in-law and now Adviser For All The Things Jared Kushner is a slumlord? Yeah, Jared Kushner is a slumlord.

The worst troubles may have been those described in a 2013 court case involving Jasmine Cox’s unit at Cove Village. They began with the bedroom ceiling, which started leaking one day. Then maggots started coming out of the living room carpet. Then raw sewage started flowing out of the kitchen sink. “It sounded like someone turned a pool upside down,” Cox told me. “I heard the water hitting the floor and I panicked. I got out of bed and the sink is black and gray, it’s pooling out of the sink and the house smells terrible.”Cox stopped cooking for herself and her son, not wanting food near the sink. A judge allowed her reduced rent for one month. When she moved out soon afterward, Westminster Management sent her a $600 invoice for a new carpet and other repairs. Cox, who is now working as a battery-test engineer and about to buy her first home, was unaware who was behind the company that had put her through such an ordeal. When I told her of Kushner’s involvement, there was a silence as she took it in.

“Get that [expletive] out of here,” she said.

That’s from Alec MacGillis’ investigation into the state of multiple Kushner-owned properties managed under the name JK2 Westminster, and specifically of the company’s unusually aggressive court actions against renters. The Kushner clan bought up an array of distressed and dilapidated properties, older complexes where renters pay about $1,000 a month, and Jared’s quite pleased with their performance, calling it a “very stable asset class.” As CEO of the company up until he got tapped by Donald Trump to fix the entire Middle East, the opiate crisis, and whatever else ya got, one of the ways Jared squeezed more money out of the properties than the previous owners was to shortchange renters on needed fixes—and then sue them when they tried to move out.

In the cases that Tapper has brought to court on behalf of JK2 Westminster and individual Kushner-controlled companies, there is a clear pattern of Kushner Companies’ pursuing tenants over virtually any unpaid rent or broken lease — even in the numerous cases where the facts appear to be on the tenants’ side. Not only does the company file cases against them, it pursues the cases for as long as it takes to collect from the overmatched defendants — often several years.

You can see why Trump’s taken such a liking to the guy: he’s a Trump man through and through. Trump will charge lower-income Americans extravagant prices for not-classes at his not-university, and Kushner will sue them for past rent when they get back home.

And so we’re told the tale of collapsed drywall ceilings, mice in beds, nonworking appliances, and the usual signs you’re living in a complex owned by someone who may or may not later end up in jail. Those go alongside tales of Kushner’s company aggressively pursuing $5,000 judgments against deceased cancer patients, or people who have been made sick from the mold or rodent droppings, or people who got permission to leave their leases early from the local property manager but the head office never got the paperwork so screw you, that’s why.

Very few of the complex residents I met, even ones who had been pursued at length in court by JK2 Westminster, had any idea that their rent and late fees were going to the family company of the president’s son-in-law. “That Jared Kushner?” Danny Jackson, a plumber in his 15th year living at Harbor Point Estates, exclaimed. “Oh, my God. And I thought he was the good one.”

Yeah, he does try to give that impression. So, ya know … oops.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2017/5/29/1665349/-Meet-Jared-Kushner-scumbag-slumlord