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Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
“There’s probably not a lot I can tell you about Brooklyn,” Jared Kushner said at a real estate conference at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in May 2014.34 His company had just acquired a portfolio of town houses in Brooklyn Heights from the Brooklyn Law School. It was about to invest in property in trendy Williamsburg, and on Third Street, on the Gowanus Canal. Its biggest deal, however, was to participate in the purchase of the former Jehovah’s Witness headquarters, including the Watchtower building. This had been an imposing landmark for decades, its iconic red sign and digital display providing the time and temperature for tourists walking the Brooklyn Bridge. The complex dominated the neighborhood of DUMBO, an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, what Jared’s father-in-law might have called “a chic artist’s enclave.”
“The last place I thought I would be, would be spending a lot of time in is Brooklyn,” Jared Kushner told the audience.
Jared, had begun to hear from his employees at the New York Observer and what he called “our venture business.” “A lot of kids in the companies were really living and wanting to work here and it led us to start really exploring so we crossed that river that is such a moat for a lot of Manhattan people.”
Jared had been influenced by his brother Josh, who worked in the tech sphere. “I saw that in all the different technology businesses that my brother was investing in, all of our best creative people were all living in Brooklyn and loving it,” Jared said at another forum.35 He saw a way to monetize this interest, to use the burgeoning creative community as a way to lure a big, important tenant to one of his Brooklyn properties: a tenant like Facebook, or Google, that would be willing to pay top dollar.
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- American Oligarchs is comprehensive, brilliantly written, filled with detail and suspense―it reads like a financial thriller.' Homes, prize-winning author of Days of Awe and This Book Will Save Your Life 'Andrea Bernstein masterfully chronicles the sordid narrative that is the American reality.
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“It always struck me the Kushner Companies were late on the Brooklyn arc but thought they were early,” a former city official said in an interview. By the time Jared bought the Watchtower complex, Brooklyn had been rapidly gentrifying for over a decade: Mayor Bloomberg’s rezonings had had their predictable effect and high-rises were now dotting the Brooklyn skyline, the Nets had been playing NBA basketball for two seasons at Barclays Center, and oligarchic wealth from Ukraine had already been used to buy Paul Manafort’s town house in Carroll Gardens.
“He understood good real estate, not necessarily good investments,” another major builder said of Jared, in an interview. “You could look at a building, great location, if you’re paying too much and the capital structure is wrong it’s not going to be a good investment.” When Jared entered Brooklyn, he seemed unaware of the existing development ecosystem, a racially diverse group who were either born in the borough or who arrived before it was fashionable. “It was awful,” one business associate said of an interaction with Jared. “He didn’t know any facts, but was so righteous. I had a million times more information than him.”
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In American Oligarchs, award-winning investigative journalist Andrea Bernstein tells the story of the Trump and Kushner families like never before. Building on her landmark reporting for the acclaimed podcast Trump, Inc. and The New Yorker, Bernstein brings to light new information about the families’ arrival as immigrants to America, their paths to success, and the business and personal lives of the president and his closest family members. Drawing on hundreds of interviews and more than one hundred thousand pages of documents, American Oligarchs details how the Trump and Kushner dynasties encouraged and profited from a system of corruption, dark money, and influence trading, and reveals the historical turning points and decisions on taxation, regulation, white-collar crime, and campaign finance laws that have brought us to where we are today. A new afterword examines how the two families’ transactional politics left America particularly vulnerable to the crises of 2020.