Jersey City wasn’t animated by political bias when it took action last year against a real estate project connected to President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, a federal judge ruled Thursday in dismissing a lawsuit brought by a group of real estate companies.
One Journal Square Partners Urban Renewal Co. and affiliates claimed in a lawsuit filed last year that officials in the heavily Democratic city issued a notice of default on the $900 million project out of political retribution because of its connections to Jared Kushner.
Before he was named a senior adviser to Trump in early 2017, Kushner was CEO of the Kushner Companies, a major investor in the companies seeking to build two residential towers and a parking garage in the city’s Journal Square neighborhood.
The lawsuit cited unflattering tweets by Democratic Mayor Steven Fulop about Trump and the Kushners and alleged the city was motivated by “bias, bad faith and/or partisan political reasons and personal reasons unrelated to a proper governmental purpose.” It claimed the city violated the companies’ constitutional rights to free association, due process and equal protection.
In Thursday’s ruling, U.S. District Judge John Vazquez wrote that the companies didn’t prove the theory in part because the city took its action in 2018, more than a year after Kushner joined the Trump administration and long after the beginning of his affiliation with the Trump campaign.
The time gap is “too remote to plausibly establish a causal link,” Vazquez wrote.
The lawsuit also included separate claims of breach of contract and tortious interference. Vazquez’s ruling left the door open for the companies to refile those claims in state court. They also could refile the counts alleging political bias.
“The court saw right through the smoke and mirrors, and we stood firm, refusing to be bullied regardless of a company’s name,” Fulop said in an emailed statement Thursday. “We were not about to back down despite the many, very public attempts to drag my name and the city’s credibility through the mud.”
In an emailed statement Thursday, One Journal Square stood by its claims.
“The court made no final rulings on the merits of the claims, including whether Fulop and the city retaliated against One Journal Square based on Fulop’s publicly proclaimed political animus towards Kushner Companies,” Emily Wolf, the Kushner Companies’ general counsel, wrote. “We are confident that we will ultimately demonstrate that Fulop and the city have engaged in an egregious violation of the rights of One Journal Square.”