Jared Kushner's family company is suing a New Jersey city, alleging it delayed construction of a major twin-tower project because of "political animus" toward President Donald Trump.
The federal lawsuit filed Wednesday by the Kushner Cos. claims Jersey City "put politics over principle" when it violated a pledge to help secure a local tax break for the family's planned One Journal Square, among other moves that delayed construction. Democratic Mayor Steven Fulop publicly opposed granting the tax break before his November re-election, and the break has never been passed. The towers have yet to be built.
Fulop in an email to news organizations called the Kushners "pretend victims" and dismissed the lawsuit, saying it amounts to "hearsay nonsense."
The suit is the latest sign that Kushner ties to Trump are causing trouble for the family real estate firm. The company had to abandon plans to raise money from abroad for its Manhattan skyscraper, kill efforts to court Chinese investors for other projects and cancel a deal for Trump's company to manage its hotels amid criticism from ethics watchdogs.
Jared Kushner stepped down from running the Kushner Cos. in January 2017 to become an adviser to Trump, who is his father-in-law.
The 56-story residential One Journal Square has been a subject of criticism for over a year. The Kushner Cos. had hoped to get a 30-year tax break from Jersey City for the building. Then Jared Kushner's sister, Nicole Meyer-Kushner, made a trip to China in which she appeared to highlight her family's White House ties in presentations soliciting money from investors for the project.
The Kushners denied they were trading on their "celebrity" status, a term used in marketing material given to Chinese investors, and called off the fundraising effort. But Fulop seized upon the news, posting on Facebook that the city would oppose any tax break.
The suit says Fulop made the statement on Facebook for "purely political reasons" to curry favor with voters. The suit also says city officials privately suggested in the months that followed that the Kushners and their partner in the project need only wait until after the November elections to get their tax break, and that Fulop himself told them in a meeting after his re-election that denying them would be "blatant discrimination."
Joseph Fiorenzo, the company's lawyer, said the "outrageous conduct" of city officials "strikes at the very heart of our economic system which has, as its foundation, the freedom of people to organize their affairs by entering into contracts. This is the glue that holds our economic system together."
The suit was earlier reported by the Jersey Journal.
In his emailed response, Fulop said that "it's not like the Kushners have a great deal of credibility in anything they say." He added, "The same way they illegally use the presidency to make money is the same way here they try to use the presidency to be pretend victims. They will do anything to manipulate a situation."
A city agency overseeing the project, the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency, said in April that the developers were in default because they missed a deadline to begin construction on the project. The Kushners contend they missed the deadline because of delays imposed by the city.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday seeks to stop the city from ending the project's contract. It also seeks to declare the notice of default null and void, calling that a "transparent pretext to enhance Fulop's status among the electorate of the city."
The suit names the city, the redevelopment agency and Fulop as defendants.