In addition to his formal titles of Secret Conversation Sound Technician and Side Chick Check Deliverer, Michael Cohen can feel free to add “eviction specialist” to the skills section of his resume. A tenants rights group has accused the former presidential paramour wrangler of falsifying building permits to push out tenants occupying buildings owned by Cohen.
According to the New York Times, an investment group headed by Cohen has been accused of lying on construction permits and claiming that buildings owned by the group were vacant or had no rent-controlled residents when in fact, the buildings were occupied, often with tenants who lived in rent-controlled apartments. Monday’s allegations are the result of an investigation by the Housing Rights Initiative, a non-profit tenants rights organization.
On the same day, the New York Department of Buildings fined Kushner Companies $210,000 for 42 incidences of falsifying building permits. The company is owned by Charles Kushner, father of Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and dead-ringer for Pinky, but not the Brain.
Before obtaining a building permit, landlords in New York City are required to report how many units are occupied by tenants who live in rent-stabilized apartments.
For instance, after purchasing a 20-unit building in 2011, the Times noted that Cohen’s company filed paperwork saying there were no units under rent control. However, there were actually 19 rent-stabilized units in the building. When Cohen sold the building at a $7.9 million dollar profit three years later, only 11 of the rent-controlled tenants remained.
Similarly, a Kushner-owned building went from 316 rent-regulated apartments to 71 in three years. And an Associated Press report from earlier this year charged that, in some cases, the Kushner Companies’ paperwork was filed during the time that Jared Kushner served as CEO, before he gave up the position to join the Trump Administration.
This is not unusual for Trump allies.
Trump’s Minister of Disinformation Sean Hannity used federally-backed loans from the Housing and Urban Development to purchase at least $90 million dollars in property, according to the Guardian. The New York Post reports that Hannity eventually raised rents by 50 percent, some of which were occupied by low-income tenants.
Even Trump himself has been accused of the practice. In 1973, Trump settled a lawsuit with the Justice Department after allegations that he discriminated against non-white tenants, including one doorman at a Trump property who said he was instructed: “If a black person came to 2650 Ocean Parkway and inquired about an apartment for rent ... I should tell him that the rent was twice as much as it really was, in order that [they] could not afford the apartment.”
Wait, that might be an unfair comparison. Kicking people out of rent-controlled apartments might be greedy, but is it necessarily racist?
Contrary to popular belief something can be racist even if the intent is not to discriminate. The Oxford English dictionary describes “racist” as: “Showing or feeling discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or believing that a particular race is superior to another.”
So does kicking out people out people on rent control discriminate against people of other races?
In 2014, a report by the NYU Furman Center (pdf) found that 52 percent of New York’s rent-stabilized households were nonwhite, compared to 27 percent of market-rate renters.