Worst Landlords Ever: These Proprietors Are Looking At Hard Time For Tenant Abuse
New York landlords don’t have the greatest reputations to begin with, but Ephraim Vashovsky is so vile he could be besties with Kim Jong Un. Vashovsky, along with property manager Adam Cohen and contractor Shaoul Ohana are being charged with endangering the welfare of a child, coercion, grand larceny, reckless endangerment and conspiracy… to name a few. Collectively they face up to seven years in prison on the most radical of the total 20 charges.
The victims in this case are Celestino Cano and Guidelia Nicolas along with their family of five children, all under 12 years of age. Vashovsky and his cohorts knowingly placed the family in life threatening conditions in order to force them out of their $2400 a month, rent stabilized apartment they had occupied for 14 years. The family was living at 21 East 115th street in East Harlem and during the winter of 2015, were deprived of heat and running water, coupled with massive construction in the building that left the entire structure on the precipice of fire or collapse.
In May of 2014, Vashovsky bought the ten unit, five-story building for $3 million and in less than a New York minute he started to gut the place to the bare bones. According to the NY Times, court papers report he was accused of, “removing all internal walls and floors of all other apartments in the building, creating a risk of falling from a height of five stories and leaving said fall risk exposed behind unlocked doors.”
Shortly after Vashovsky acquired the building, efforts began to oust Cano and Nicolasa along with their children from apartment 5E. The defendants filed for eviction on the grounds that the building was over-crowded while simultaneously, submitted falsified documents that claimed the building was unoccupied by tenants. Construction permission was then granted based on the false documents. Suddenly imperative fire retardant materials were removed, creating a safety hazard for the family who still lived in the apartment.
It gets worse. The family’s heat was turned off, water in their toilet froze and then was shut off altogether, forcing the family to use the bathrooms at local restaurants. On top of the manipulation and outright bullying, Vashovsky and Cohen continued to deposit more than $1000 the family’s rent checks that were city subsidized by the city while failing to meet the basic needs of his tenants. The cherry on the top of this unconscionable sundae were threats made by Vashovsky that he would report the family as undocumented Mexican immigrants to authorities.
Unfortunately, harassment of rent controlled tenants by landlords is nothing new and is increasing at an alarming rate. Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation advises tenants throughout Brooklyn on landlord/ tenant disputes. They say, “What we see a lot more now is landlords physically destroying buildings to force tenants out overnight. It’s the method of choice these days.”
While the laws in New York State are generally viewed as ‘pro-tenant’, the gulf between the laws and the enforcement of them is becoming wider. Until that gulf is narrowed, stories like this will continue to be commonplace. One can only hope that the lives of tenants can someday be viewed as more important than the profits they generate.
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