Today another installment of the Midday Culture Connection with Dr. Sheri Parks of the University of Maryland, College Park. Presidential senior advisor and first son-in-law Jared Kushner’s meeting with a Russian banker back in December is the subject of a federal and congressional investigation. ProPublica reporter Alec MacGillis conducted his own investigation into Kushner that hits closer to home. Kushner Companies owns and operates 15 apartment complexes in the Baltimore area. Although Kushner stepped down as CEO in January he’s still a stakeholder, with a share of the company estimated to be worth at least $600 million.
People who live in these complexes say they’ve been plagued with poor conditions like mold, rodents and even sewage backups. Former residents say they’ve been subjected to long, drawn-out legal battles for back rent that they did not owe, even when they provided the necessary documents.
Most of Kushner’s real estate holdings in this area are in southern Baltimore County. Unlike some of Kushner’s high profile real estate holdings in Manhattan, his apartments here cater to low income residents. Baltimore County does not provide public housing units, these apartments have become a stand-in.
In an extensive piece in the New York Times Magazine last month, Alec MacGillis spoke with some of Kushner’s tenants and the lawyers who represent Kushner’s firm. The tenants are single mothers, working class families, and students. When they go up against Kushner’s company in court, they are overmatched, and they rarely prevail. So is Jared Kushner’s real estate company taking advantage of some of Baltimore’s poorest residents?
Alec MacGillis covers politics and government for ProPublica. Alec won a Pulitzer Prize when he was working at the Washington Post, and last year, he won the Robin Toner Prize for excellence in Political reporting. His New York Times magazine piece is called “Jared Kushner’s Other Real Estate Empire."
Dr. Sheri Parks joins us every month for the Midday Culture Connection. She’s an Associate Dean for Research, Interdisciplinary Scholarship and Programming at the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of MD College Park, where she is also an Associate Professor in the Department of American Studies and author of Fierce Angels: Living with a Legacy from the Sacred Dark Feminine to the Strong Black Woman.