While former Trump attorney Michael Cohen may have reached a plea deal in the charges against him related to the campaign finance contributions violations surrounding the payments he made to keep the news of President Trump’s sexual dalliances from leaking to the public before the 2016 elections, The New York Times is reporting today that Cohen and Charles Kushner, the father of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner are being investigated by New York City’s Department of Buildings over claims that they “falsified construction permits in an attempt to remove rent-regulated tenants from buildings scattered across the city.”
The investigation indicates that Cohen’s legal troubles are far from over and spells additional trouble for the Kushner Companies’ founder who was convicted of tax evasion and witness tampering in 2005 and was forced to hand over management of the family business to his son Jared while he served his sentence in federal prison.
New York City’s Department of Buildings cited 42 violations in which the Kushner Companies presented falsified permit information at 17 of the buildings that they owned that included tenants protected from market rate rent increases and from the threat of eviction.
City regulations require landlords to disclose whether any building undergoing renovation or construction contains rent regulated tenants as a way to prevent landlords from using the continuous noise and dirt from these types of projects to harass tenants and convince them to abandon their apartments so they can be leased to new tenants at vastly higher rents.
The Kushner Companies face fines totaling over $200,000 for the violations. A spokesperson for the real estate company downplayed the violations, claiming that they were due to “paperwork errors.”
Meanwhile an investment group led by Michael Cohen was accused of falsifying construction permits at three buildings that they owned claiming that they were vacant or that they had no rent regulated tenants when in fact they were occupied and had multiple tenants who were protected by rent stabilization rules.
According to the report in The New York Times, “tenants living in Mr. Cohen’s buildings repeatedly filed complaints about noise and dust related to construction work, according to the report by Housing Rights Initiative, a nonprofit tenant advocacy group.” The executive director of the Housing Rights Initiative, Aaron Carr said that their report “suggests that Mr. Cohen had commenced a deliberate campaign to systematically harass tenants out of their apartments using destructive, hazardous and illegal construction practices, so he could dramatically raise rents.”
With affordable housing being a major issue in many urban areas in the U.S. today, the depletion of rent regulated apartments through shady landlord practices creates even more upward pressure on rents and eventually leads to increased homelessness among those priced out of the remaining housing stock.
It’s not the least bit surprising that the people in Trump’s orbit are every bit as corrupt as you’d expect them to be, but the shower of new revelations each day and the slow but sure movement towards justice must be making President Trump increasingly feel cornered. When Trump promised to drain the swamp, he didn’t realize that he himself may be swept down the drain as part of the process.
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