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Kushner Cos., KABR Sue Jersey City, Mayor Over One Journal Square

Developers Claim to Be Victims of Anti-Trump Political Persecution, Seek Apology From Mayor (UPDATE)
June 28, 2018
The family real estate firm once led by presidential adviser Jared Kushner has made good on its threat to sue Jersey City and its mayor, Steven Fulop, claiming the Democratic-majority metropolis is unlawfully trying to derail a massive waterfront redevelopment because of "political animus towards President Trump."

One Journal Square Partners, which includes Kushner Cos. and KABR Group Inc., filed a lawsuit in federal court in Newark, NJ, on Wednesday over its $900 million proposed redevelopment of One Journal Square, a project that includes two 56-story residential towers--a venture the two firms allege is being stymied by the city.

The battle escalated Thursday when the partnership’s attorney accused Fulop of defamation in comments that the mayor made about the suit and Kushner Cos., demanding a retraction and an apology. Fulop, who called the lawsuit "nonsense," accused the developers of trying to play the victim to win a favorable result.

The nine-count federal suit names not only the city and Fulop but the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency, alleging that public officials have breached the terms of the Journal Square redevelopment pact. The litigation charges that city officials falsely claimed that Manhattan-based Kushner Cos. and KABR, located in Ridgefield Park, NJ, had defaulted on their obligations under that agreement by failing to make timely payment of fees due to the city and missing deadlines for the project.

The lawsuit, filed by attorney Joseph Fiorenzo of Newark, NJ, charges that Jersey City officials are meting out politically motivated punishment to Kushner Cos. because of the firm’s connection to President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner. Married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, Kushner has served as chief executive of Kushner Cos., but he stepped down from that position after he became President Trump’s senior adviser in 2017.

The city sent Kushner and KABR a notice of default on April 17 this year, which the lawsuit claims "was issued to appease and curry favor with the overwhelmingly anti-Trump constituents of Jersey City." Fulop and city council members are members of the Democratic Party, according to the litigation.

  Related News: Kushner Cos. Blasts Jersey City Over One Journal SquareAPRIL 24, 2018  |  LINDA MOSS

"The residents of the city are predominantly aligned with the Democratic Party, as evidenced by the 2017 presidential election in which 82.7 percent of city voters voted for Hillary Clinton and 14.2 percent voted for President Trump," the suit said.

The lawsuit asks the federal court to declare the city's notice of default to Kushner Cos. and KABR null and void and to make the city abide by the redevelopment agreement. The litigation also blames some of the delays in the One Journal Square project on Fulop and his administration.

In addition to filing the lawsuit, Fiorenzo issued a separate statement.

"The conduct of the Jersey 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," he said. "This is the glue that holds our economic system together. We will vigorously pursue and protect the rights of JSP (Journal Square Partners) and are confident that our legal system will not permit the outrageous conduct that the Jersey City officials have engaged in here, as detailed in the complaint."

The Jersey Journal reported earlier on the lawsuit, and Fulop posted a link to the story Wednesday on Twitter and tweeted, "Nonsense. Bottom line: the same way they illegally try to use the presidency to make $ when it suits them is the same way here where they try to use the presidency to be pretend victims when that suits them. Lawsuit = they will say/do anything to make $."

On Thursday, Fulop stayed on the offensive, emailing a statement to the press about the litigation.

"It's not like the Kushners have a great deal of credibility in anything they say," the mayor wrote. "They will do anything to manipulate a situation."

Fiorenzo on Thursday afternoon he said he was sending a letter to Fulop at night via Federal Express demanding that the mayor cease-and-desist the defamation of Kushner Cos. and Charles Kushner, the company's founder and Jared's father, and that he retract his comments.

Fulop’s remarks that the Kushners "illegally" used the presidency constitute libel per se, and are false, Fiorenzo said in his letter. He also demanded that the mayor issue a retraction on Twitter and social media, as well as issue an apology to Kushner Cos. and Charles Kushner.

[Update: 4:15 p.m.]

In an email on Friday, Fulop responded to Fiorenzo’s letter.

“I’m not going to apologize for saying the truth, it’s the Kushner Family that owes us an apology,” the mayor said. “Whether it’s inaccurately reporting ownership stakes in properties, or misrepresenting financing partners, or outright saying in China that investment in Jersey City properties means lots to the family, I think the public can judge for themselves.”

Linda Moss, Northern New Jersey Market Reporter  CoStar Group   
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