$1.5 billion in building and sanitation fines have gone uncollected by city: Housing Rights Initiative

The city is missing out on millions in uncollected sanitation and building fines, according to a tenants rights group.
The city is missing out on millions in uncollected sanitation and building fines, according to a tenants rights group. Photo Credit: Liz Clayman

The city’s failure to collect some $1.5 billion in outstanding real estate fines is sending landlords the wrong message, a tenants right group says.

The Housing Rights Initiative said Tuesday that city Department of Finance records show the government is owed more than $1.5 billion in various sanitation and building violation fines, including $500,000 from Kushner Companies.

City Department of Building officials announced last week that the department issued $210,000 in violations against Kushner Companies for filing construction permits with false information. The city acted after the Housing Rights Initiative reported that Kushner Companies’ paperwork falsely indicated their buildings lacked rent regulated units, which the advocacy group believed was an attempt to sidestep the additional scrutiny such applications receive.

Aaron Carr, executive director of the watchdog group, said the new $210,000 fine may not be meaningful, given that Kushner Companies — and other landlords facing fines — have spent years dodging the dues. Besides last week’s fines, Kushner Companies owes some $350,000 for more than 600 Environmental Control Board violations for everything from improper recycling to performing electrical work without permits, according to the Housing Rights Initiative.

“Kushner Companies provides a prism through which the shortcomings of our system can be viewed,” Carr said in a statement. “New York City has created an environment where landlords risk putting themselves at a competitive disadvantage by following the law.”

Kushner Companies, which is run by the family of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, did not respond to a request for comment.

Carr’s group said the city is missing millions by not collecting fines for Environmental Control Board violations, which expire after eight years. The Housing Rights Initiative said $93.59 million in such debt expired in fiscal year 2017.

The city Department of Finance is reviewing the Kushner properties in question to verify what is owed to the city, according to department spokeswoman Sonia Alleyne.

“We take the issue of non-payment seriously and have committed resources and developed processes to ensure that we are effectively collecting fines, increasing our rate by 61 percent over the last four years,” Alleyne said in a statement.