The real estate firm owned by the family of Jared Kushner has withdrawn a request for a big tax break for one its buildings in Jersey City, New Jersey, the latest setback for the company in the area. The Kushner Cos. sent a letter withdrawing its application for a 30-year break from city taxes for a planned two-tower project in the struggling Journal Square section of the city, Jersey City spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill said Wednesday. Opponents of the tax breaks marched downtown earlier this year and the city’s mayor recently came out against the Kushner request. Jared Kushner was CEO of the family company before stepping down to become a senior adviser to his father-in-law, President Donald Trump.
Kushner Cos. spokesman James Yolles said the company is committed to the “much-needed investment” in that area of the city. The loss of the tax break is the latest blow for the company in a city where it is major real estate developer. The 79-story building – One Journal Square – gained attention last month after Jared Kushner’s sister, Nicole Kushner Meyer, mentioned her brother in a presentation in Beijing where she had hoped to attract Chinese investors in the building. Marketing material noted the “celebrity status” of her family.
Government ethics experts blasted the family for what they said was an attempt to profit off Jared Kushner’s position in Washington, and the Kushner Cos. canceled upcoming investor presentations in the country. The company said Meyer wasn’t trying to use her White House ties to attract investors. The Kushner family is seeking 300 wealthy Chinese to invest a total of $150 million in One Journal Square. The family was trying to raise money through the EB-5 visa program that grants temporary U.S. residency to wealthy foreigners in exchange for investments of at least $500,000 in certain U.S. projects
The company also is in danger of losing another tax break for the building. The shared office space firm WeWork recently pulled out as anchor tenant. That has put in doubt a state break tied to WeWork. Another project is off, too. The Kushner Cos. once considered bidding to develop a 95-acre industrial site along the Hackensack River in the city for housing, called Bayfront. Last month, it was revealed the family had withdrawn from those plans last year.
The Kusnher Cos. has said politics had nothing to do with its decision to withdraw from Bayfront, and that “economics of the deal” drove the move. As for One Journal Square, company spokesman Yolles said the project will provide 4,000 construction jobs and $180 million in tax revenue for the city over 30 years. Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, a Democrat, is running for re-election this fall, and tax breaks to developers have become a major issue. Unlike neighboring Hoboken, Jersey City has granted dozens of tax breaks in recent years. Fulop had campaigned to reform the practice, but critics say he has done little.
Another Kushner property in the city overlooking the Hudson River got a five-year tax break soon after Fulop was elected mayor. That 50-story building has licensed the Trump name and is called Trump Bay Street. The building was also partly financed with EB-5 visa money from abroad. The Kushner family owns or manages 20,000 apartments, 13 million square feet of office space and industrial properties in several states, including New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Illinois.