Harlem Landlord Charged For Gutting Building With Family Inside

July 26, 2016

It was an eviction by demolition. An East Harlem landlord, a building manager and a contractor have been accused of gut-renovating a building while a family of seven — including five young kids — were still living inside, authorities said Tuesday.

Ephraim Vashovsky, 49, was busted for allegedly orchestrating a heartless bid to pull the five-story, 10-unit building on E. 115th St., blocks from the northeast corner of Central Park, out of rent stabilization.

Vashovsky allegedly succeeded in pushing out all tenants in the building except for an immigrant family from Mexico with five children under 12, including an infant, who were subjected to life-threatening conditions as the building’s infrastructure was torn down around them, sources said.

The Nicolas-Cano family, undocumented Mexican immigrants, stayed put in their $2,400-per-month fifth-floor walkup apartment because they had no other options and could not have rented a space to fit their family elsewhere, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.

Their options were also limited because of their immigration status.

But it didn’t stop Vashovksy, a father of nine, and his partners from moving forward with his plan to break down the building and try to force the family out, prosecutors said.

He deprived them of heat, hot water, and electricity.

The fire escape was also removed and the apartment was riddled with leaks, prosecutors said.

An East Harlem landlord, a building manager and a contractor have been accused of gut renovating a building while a family of seven were still living in it.

At their arraignment Tuesday afternoon, Assistant District Attorney Andrew Warshawer said the family, in freezing conditions during the “so-called Polar vortex” of the winter between 2014 and 2015, was forced to try to stay alive using space heaters and boiled water.

Even their toilet had turned into a “solid block of ice” and they had to use public restrooms around the neighborhood to get by, the ADA said.

Shaoul Ohana

Also hit with charges ranging from endangering the welfare of a child and grand larceny to coercion and conspiracy are Adam Cohen, a manager, and Shaoul Ohana (pictured above), a contractor. “These defendants are charged with turning an East Harlem apartment building into a deathtrap,” said DA Cyrus Vance Jr.

“This was a demolition disguised as a renovation job,” added Department of Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler.

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Bail for Vashovsky and Cohen was set at $1.25 million bond or $555,000 cash, while Ohana was held on $450,000 bond or $150,000 cash.

Vashovsky’s lawyer John Carman said his client “purchased this very dilapidated building with the understanding that the building was unoccupied. Much of what Mr. Warshawer talks about are a landlord’s efforts to rehabilitate a building that was demonstrably degraded and in need of repair.”

Ohana is a father of seven children and has been married for 30 years, and denies “knowingly putting anyone in danger,” his lawyer Adam Freedman said.

Cohen’s pregnant wife was in the audience. He has three kids under 6.

Photo credit: source.

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