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Kushner family's Jersey City project controversial even before China scrutiny

Kushner family's Jersey City project controversial even before China scrutiny

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It’s been a bad week for Jared Kushner family’s and its hopes for a luxury development in Jersey City.

The proposed mixed-use towers at One Journal Square has been hit with the loss of a tenant that granted it large tax breaks, a pronouncement from Jersey City’s Mayor he opposes further help for the project and scrutiny over its use of its White House connections to sell opportunities to wealthy Chinese investors.

But the proposed luxury condos have been controversial before Jared Kushner sister’s Nancy made headlines by referencing her brother and President Trump in a Beijing presentation said the foreign businesspeople could receive EB-5 visas and a path to U.S. residency if they give at least $500,000.

“I think there should be intense scrutiny to every Trump and Kushner development as long as they continue to profit off the presidency,” James Solomon, an organizer behind the protest group Evict Trump-Kushner from Jersey City, told the Daily News Tuesday.

Solomon’s group started earlier this year amid questions about how much President Trump, who left control of his business to his sons, and Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a top adviser, had actually divested from their businesses.

Responding to criticism for the China event, Kushner Companies told the Daily News Monday that Jared Kushner, who until recently headed the firm, “stepped away from the company in January and has nothing to do with this project.”

It apologized if mentioning him “was in any way interpreted as an attempt to lure investors” but also said the Journal Square project would bring 4,000 construction jobs and $180 million in tax revenue for Jersey City over the next three decades.

But pressure from residents including Evict Trump-Kushner members likely led Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, a 40-year-old seen by many as likely to seek higher office, to announce Sunday the 30-year tax abatement application that the Kushners and their partners submitted last week “doesn’t work for us.”

“While the law requires a first reading ordinance vote if they submit an application, I don't foresee the council voting in favor,” he said in a message on Facebook.

Solomon welcomed the decision, and said part of his group’s particular anger about the Kushner development comes from the fact that Trump slandered Jersey City during the campaign by saying that he saw Muslims there cheering Sept. 11th.

Local opposition also raises questions about how Trump and Kushner-linked projects will fare when enhanced scrutiny is paid to oft-derided practices such as EB-5 visas, particularly when they are located in liberal cities and mayors have political incentives to oppose supporting them.

But beyond the local tax breaks, the One Journal Square project will lose $59 million from the New Jersey Economic Development’s Grow NJ program after it emerged in Bloomberg that collaborative office company WeWork would not be leasing space there.

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A sign is seen outside an event where Nicole Kushner Meyer, the sister of White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, was promoting a real estate development in Shanghai.

WeWork communications director Dominic McMullan confirmed to the News Tuesday while the company is still an equity partner in the project, it has not signed a lease to be a tenant.

The Grow NJ credits were linked to WeWork having “site control” such as a lease, rather than just part of the ownership, a spokeswoman for the NJEDA said.

The group said no benefit is received by a company until it meets certain criteria, and added WeWork has until May 13 to submit the appropriate documents or filed for an extension.

WeWork did not comment on the fact that no longer being a tenant would lose the project it is still involved in millions of dollars.

Kushner Companies said it would not comment on the WeWork departure or Fulop tax break decision.

Solomon says he hopes problems the project, which he also criticized for a lack of affordable housing, leads to change in the administration’s attitude towards potential conflicts of interest.

“They could stop this pressure tomorrow if they took serious action” he said, noting that despite Trump saying he has stepped away from his business, his son Eric said in March he would give his father quarterly updates on his dealings.

When pressed on the China EB-5 issue Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, “Jared has no affiliation with that company anymore he recused himself from it and sold his interest in it.”

Kushner’s lawyers have also said he sold his stake in Journal Square project to a trust where neither he nor Ivanka are beneficiaries.

However, ethics disclosures released in late March show Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump continue to benefit from at least some parts of his previous business empire.

A White House spokesperson did not respond to a specific request for comment on Jared Kushner's business divestments.


http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/kushner-jersey-city-project-controversial-china-scrutiny-article-1.3151306

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