DA Vance Announces Reckless Endangerment Charges Over Harlem Apartment; Legal Aid's Jason Wu Represented Family and Tenants
TUESDAY, JULY 26, 2016

District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced the arrest of a landlord, property manager and contractor after allegedly purposefully creating dangerous living conditions for tenants in an East Harlem building, who were represented by Jason Wu, Staff Attorney in the Harlem Community Law Office.

The men tried to coerce a family of seven undocumented immigrants, to vacate their rent-stabilized apartment and allegedly began illegal construction and renovation on the building, 21 East 115th St, while the family still lived in the building. Vance told a press conference that the entire building was in danger of collapse and there were massive holes that children could have fallen through.




POLITICO NEW YORK
Vance announces reckless endangerment charges over Harlem apartment
By Addy Baird
07/26/2016

A landlord, property manager and contractor were arrested Tuesday morning after allegedly purposefully creating dangerous living conditions for tenants in an East Harlem building, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced at a press conference in Manhattan.

The three men - Ephraim Vashovsky, the landlord; Adam Cohen, the property manager; and Shaoul Ohana, a contractor - were charged with reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child. Vashovsky and Cohen were also charged with grand larceny and conspiracy, and Cohen was charged with falsifying business records.

They will be arraigned at 2:15 Tuesday.

The men allegedly attempted to coerce the Nicolas-Cano family, a family of seven undocumented immigrants, to vacate their rent-stabilized apartment and allegedly began illegal construction and renovation on the building, 21 East 115th St, while the family still lived in the building.

Vance called the building "literally a deathtrap" after fireproofing and and fire escapes were removed and electricity, hot water and heat were cut during the winter of 2015. Because of their undocumented status, the family never reported the violations. The Department of Buildings ordered that the building be vacated in March, 2015, after inspecting the construction.

Department of Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler told reporters Tuesday that "the Department of Buildings doesn't care about immigrant status" and said he strongly encourages anyone who suspects illegal building to call 311 so that other families don't end up in the same situation.

"It's a miracle it didn't catch on fire and that none of the children ventured too far from their apartment where they could've fallen down massive holes, six stories down to the basement," Vance said. "The entire building was at risk of collapse."

The Department of Buildings evacuated the family from the apartment with the help of the fire department and the Red Cross. After the family left, the landlord continued to cash city subsidy checks that had been used to help pay the rent on the unit.

"This investigation underscores what [the Department of Investigation] has found time and again," said DOI commissioner Mark Peters. "There is a direct nexus between a dearth of integrity and dangerous building conditions. This scenario has only grave results."

Vashovsky was on the "NYC Landlord Watchlist" put together by Public Advocate Tish James' office. At the press conference, James said that Tuesday's indictment should "be a message that anyone who hurts tenants in our city will get more than a slap on the wrist."