Kushner Companies, run by the family of President Donald Trump’s (R) son-in-law, has filed an amended lawsuit against Jersey City and Mayor Steve Fulop alleging that “political animus” against the company resulted in the improper denial of its One Journal Square project.
By Corey McDonald/Hudson County View
The amended complaint, first filed in September, comes after a federal judge dismissed their initial complaint against the city in the August.
The judge rejected the notion that there was irrefutable proof that the city terminated a redevelopment agreement with the company because of “political animus toward President Trump,” though it was dismissed without prejudice – meaning the had the option to refile.
Nevertheless, the new 188-page lawsuit has “130 new paragraphs of allegations” detailing hostility towards the real estate giant throughout 2017 and 2018 after Jared Kushner, the former head of the company, left his post to become Trump’s senior advisor, according to a statement released by attorneys Joseph Fiorenzo, David Cook and Stephen Klein.
As HCV first reported in April 2018, the lawsuit notes that tensions came to a head when the Jersey City Redevelopment Authority said they defaulted on their $800 One Journal Square project.
One paragraph asserts that Fulop told company executives in January 2018 that it was very difficult to do business with them given Jared Kushner’s new White House gig.
“Despite the fact that the City’s conduct was ‘wrong,’ Fulop stated that the publicity over the fact that he was linked to Trump through the Kushner Companies made the deal ‘really tough,’ such that it would be better if the Kushner name was not involved in the project,” the suit alleges.
The city filed a motion for dismissal of the new complaint and a hearing is scheduled in Newark federal court on Nov. 18.
Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione, a spokeswoman for the city, called the amended complaint “another silly lawsuit the Kushner family will lose, just like they lost the last time.”
“The bottom line is, the mayor’s position is that there is no need for a tax abatement on this property and we won’t be bullied or harassed by the Kushner family to give a tax abatement. The Fulop administration has not given out any residential tax abatements in three years, and we won’t change the policy here.”
The amended lawsuit attempts to bolster allegations against the city by adding a litany of examples showing Fulop’s alleged political maneuvering, from Trump’s election onward through Fulop’s own re-election campaign in 2017.
Multiple times the lawsuit makes reference to the mayor and his deputy mayor advising the company to withdraw their tax abatement application “for political reasons — not for any substantive of other deficiency in the applications themselves,” the lawsuit reads.
Furthermore, the court action also highlights instances where elected officials expressed opposition to the project, Councilmen James Solomon and Michael Yun – the former held a protest outside of a Trump-owned property in the city; and the latter said of One Journal Square: “It’s a good project, and if it weren’t for the Trump connection” it would be approved.
Additionally,, the lawsuit claims that the city violated a redevelopment agreement between the two parties by withdrawing tax abatement applications that the city was contractually obligated to issue under the agreement.
The company also believes this notice of default “was issued to appease and curry favor with the overwhelmingly anti-Trump constituents of Jersey City.”
The city “ultimately determined to place politics over principle … by engaging in egregious actions to interfere with JSP’s ability to develop the project following the election of President Trump,” the lawsuit reads.
The legal debacle is centered on property in the heart of the city that has remained dormant for more than 13 years.
The nearly $900 million project would have turned property near the Journal Square PATH station into two 56-story residential towers with more than 1,500 units.
Kushner Companies was first brought on in 2014 after the city issued a notice of default to the property’s previous developer. Jared Kushner was CEO of the company at the time.
“Through this suit we will prove that the conduct of the Jersey City officials identified in the Complaint are in violation of the law and in clear breach of the Redevelopment Agreement,” Fiorenzo said in a statement.
“… If contractual rights can be disposed of on the whim of governmental officials to secure political points, we all suffer as we begin to look more and more like third-world nations ruled by dictators, rather than the greatest nation on earth.”
Follow Corey McDonald on Twitter @cwmcdonald_