East Harlem landlord, contractors accused of turning family's home into deathtrap

EMBED </>More Videos

Sandra Bookman has more from East Harlem.

There are disturbing charges against a landlord in New York City, accused of trying so hard to evict a family from their rent-stabilized apartment that he turned the unit into a deathtrap.

The owner and two contractors are charged with nearly two dozen crimes for allegedly endangering the lives of that family.

The now boarded up East Harlem building became a house of horrors.

The Manhattan District Attorney accuses the owner of creating life-threatening conditions, harassing and intimidating a family of seven, including five young children, in an effort to force them out of the rent-stabilized property.

"Knowing that the tenants were undocumented immigrant from Mexico, he threatened to call immigration authorities and told them that they should leave the apartment in quote 'the easy way' as opposed to the hard way," said Cyrus Vance, Jr., Manhattan DA.

The city says the landlord essentially demolished the building around the family, the only remaining tenants.

He is accused of stripping away floors and walls, and even removing the fire escape.

A photo of an ice-encased apartment next door illustrates how cold it got during the winter of 2015, when the heat and hot water were turned off.

"What this landlord did was jeopardizing the safety of these individuals and endanger their lives," said Tish James, NYC Public Advocate.

Building owner Ephraim Vashovsky, property manager Adam Cohen and contractor Shaoul Ohana were arraigned on felony charges Tuesday, including reckless endangerment, endangering the welfare of a child and grand larceny.

Investigators say even after the city moved the family because of fears the building would collapse, the owner continued to cash government rent-assistance checks for months.

A stop work order is now in place and the building remains boarded up, as the DA's office looks into other properties this landlord may own.

Bail for Vashovsky and Cohen was set at $1.2 million.
Related Topics:
realestaterental propertyrentersEast HarlemNew York City
(Copyright ©2018 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.)