The Mast-Head: Encounter With Jared Kushner

My recollection is that he was basically looking to get something without giving anything in return

Some years ago now, I took a call at The Star from Jared Kushner, then the dewy-fresh owner of The New York Observer. Mr. Kushner had the idea that during the summer he might somehow bundle his paper with ours as a way to reach Manhattanites whom he might convert come fall to regular Observer readers.

We declined, thinking that there did not seem to be much of an upside for us. I can’t recall what, if anything, Mr. Kushner offered, other than what he described as added value for The Star. My recollection is that he was basically looking to get something without giving anything in return.

Now, I am not saying that this was the best business decision on my part, but something about the vacuous-sounding Mr. Kushner irritated me. I did not think again about him until his father-in-law announced that he was going to run for president.

Since then, Mr. Kushner, an unpaid adviser to the president with a security clearance problem, has been in the news a great deal.  Recently, the press has paid attention to the way his family real estate company may have lied to officials about rent-controlled apartments in an attempt to keep city inspectors at bay. 

Getting less attention is a story about how a Kushner-owned property in Brooklyn had five suspiciously started hallway fires during a period while it was undergoing renovation. The account, posted on  Medium.com, came from Amanda Guinzburg, whom I met once at a party. She lived in the building, and her story was quite something.

According to Ms. Guinzburg, while fires were breaking out and construction dust was choking residents and building staff, the property management company increased rents, did loud work on Saturdays, and cut off the water supply to the point that about two-thirds of the tenants just gave up and moved out. Meanwhile, a man who lived there who had spoken about suing was evicted and his apartment quickly demolished.

The Associated Press broke another story on Sunday, reporting that the Kushner company had duped city regulators by claiming it had zero rent-control tenants in its dozens of buildings, when there actually were hundreds. As in Ms. Guinzburg’s building, tenants had to deal with extensive construction, banging, drilling, dust, and leaks they believed were targeted harassment to clear the way for higher-paying tenants.

Now, I can’t say how much of this is true. Ms. Guinzburg seemed trustworthy enough when I met her, and the A.P. knows how to report a story accurately. All I can say is that I spoke to Mr. Kushner once, and I decided he was not someone I wanted to do business with.