Owner Accused of Tenant Harassment Is Arrested
At a recent news conference with city officials, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, detailed an indictment charging a building owner, his manager, and a contractor with reckless endangerment, endangering the welfare of a child, and other offenses. The owner, Ephraim Vashovsky, 48, whose companies own more than two dozen residential buildings in the city; Adam Cohen, 32; and Shaoul Ohana, 56, face up to seven years in prison on the most serious of the 20 charges. The city also announced a lawsuit against the men and their companies seeking the forfeiture of $3.3 million in assets.
According to the indictment, during the single-digit temperatures in winter 2015, the tenants, a family with five children, had no heat and no hot water. The family was the last rent-stabilized holdouts in a building undergoing renovations so that the owner could attract higher-paying tenants in East Harlem. As demolition work commenced around them, the building became structurally unstable and the work blocked the only fire exit. And on many occasions, the owner’s agent would bang on the tenants’ door late at night threatening to report to the authorities their status as undocumented immigrants from Mexico.
After a building inspection in March 2015 led to orders to stop construction and vacate the building, the family was temporarily relocated by the Red Cross, officials said. Mr. Vashovsky’s company and Mr. Ohana’s company were fined $9,300 for building violations.
Throughout the construction, the landlord collected and deposited the rent checks, which included rent assistance from the city. Mr. Vashovsky cashed the last check two months after the family vacated their home, officials said.
While prosecuting owners for tenant harassment is uncommon, city and state authorities have been turning to the courts more frequently to crack down on owners suspected of wrongdoing. Steven Croman, whose companies controlled more than 140 Manhattan apartment buildings, was charged in May with 20 felonies.