Kushners face heated trial over suburban Jersey mall project

WASHINGTON — Days after a seaside reception for his father-in-law’s presidential campaign, Jared Kushner set out to pitch a deal to a small-town mayor: Kushner Cos. would transform an aging shopping mall into a live-work destination, bringing culture and commerce to a scraggy stretch of the Jersey Shore.

The mayor, a retired police officer, viewed it as a brilliant offer his town couldn’t refuse. But hundreds of Eatontown residents turned out in opposition, packing borough council meetings last year to protest the Monmouth Mall expansion as a giveaway to Kushner.

Kushner soon won approval to build 700 apartments atop his mall parking lot as part of a $300 million expansion deal — an agreement that now is the subject of a heated lawsuit set for trial Monday.

Before joining the White House as a senior adviser to President Donald Trump, Kushner was CEO of his family company and was widely credited with its expansion into Manhattan.

But he was just as busy building political loyalties and securing municipal changes to benefit the business in his home state of New Jersey.

Plaintiffs in the mall suit are claiming town officials privately negotiated with the Kushners for half a year without telling the community, then rushed a vote on new zoning rules that benefited only Kushner’s company after the deal already had been rejected.

“People are mad. They’re mad at the mayor, and they’re mad at the backroom deals,” said plaintiff and longtime resident Sara Breslow.