Jared Kushner’s (Preservation) Record

The Donald has been getting a lot of attention lately, what with his running for President and all.  So too has his family, which is being touted as an integral part of his campaign apparatus, and his most intimate advisors.

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Trump (l.) and Kushner (r.).

When the irrepressible Mr. Trump started his campaign last year, we decided to stroll down memory lane and reminisce about our time with the Big Apple’s big orange developer.  There were the dead bodies exhumed from a 19th century abolitionist church graveyard, the fatal construction accident resulting from “substandard construction” practices which killed an immigrant construction worker, the sordid criminal records of Trump’s partners in the project…  Ah, good times.

But Mr. Trump is not the only developer in the family.  So in honor of the special attention the Trump clan is receiving today, we thought we would take a quick look at our own experiences with Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, whom the New York Times has called one of Mr. Trump’s “most influential advisors,” and who has rushed to his father-in-law’s defense in the face of accusations of peddling anti-semitism.

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Neighborhood, preservation, and jewish community leaders gathered in 2008 to save Mezritch Synagogue from Kushner’s demolition plan.

The good news is, Mr. Kushner has done nothing quite so egregious in our neighborhood (that we know of) as his ocherous father-in-law.  Of course, that’s a pretty low bar to clear.

So here’s a rundown of what we do know about Mr. Kushner…

We first encountered Mr. Kushner in 2008 when he was behind a plan to tear down the East Village’s last operating tenement synagogue, the beautiful and historic Congregation Mezrtich Synagogue on East 6th Street.  After a huge outcry from preservationists, Jewish community leaders, East Village residents, and even some members of the congregation (which was to be provided a new space in the condo development to be built on site), Kushner dropped the plan. Since then, GVSHP has been able to get the building landmarked by inclusion in the East Village Historic District, and the historic structure has been preserved (on the outside) with a modest setback addition on top to generate income for the congregation, which will continue to occupy the lower floor of the building.

We next encountered Mr. Kushner in 2011 when he proposed adding some truly huge rooftop additions to the beloved

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One of the rejected versions of Kushner’s Puck penthouse plan.

landmarked Puck Building on Houston Street.  The additions would have overwhelmed and (we thought) destroyed the sanctity of this treasured piece of New York’s history, all for the sake of erecting some very expensive penthouse apartments on the roof.  We strongly opposed the proposed plan.  Mr. Kushner was shockingly persistent, with his repeatedly pared-down plans rejected by the Landmarks Preservation Commission perhaps a record nearly half-dozen times.  A significantly scaled-back version of the plan, with a greatly reduced and much less visible rooftop addition, was finally approved by the LPC in late 2011.

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156 Sullivan, with empty Joe’s Dairy space, now owned by Kushner.

Our latest brush with Mr. Kushner, which is still ongoing, began in 2013 when he suddenly purchased a large cache of East Village and South Village apartment buildings, mostly tenements, many with long-term tenants and still-affordable rents.  Among those are 156 Sullivan Street, a lovely Beaux-Arts tenement just across from the historic St. Anthony of Padua Church which for generations and until about the time of Mr. Kushner’s purchase housed venerable South Village institution Joe’s Dairy.  Knowing that Mr. Kushner was probably not interested preserving those buildings for posterity, we have (for that and many other reasons) been amping up our efforts to expand landmark protections in this still-unlandmarked area of the South Village, as well as in the East Village.  In fact, if you want to help with this effort, come to a Community Board #2 meeting this Thursday night (details here), or send a letter here.

The story of the young Mr. Kushner’s impact upon New York is still largely unwritten.  One thing’s for sure, though — everything he says and does, and has said and done, may be getting a little more scrutiny now than he may have ever imagined.

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Andrew Berman

Andrew Berman has been the Executive Director of GVSHP since 2002.