‘Worst landlord’ admits demolishing building with family inside

A Harlem landlord has admitted putting a family’s life in danger when he started ripping out walls and fire escapes in an effort to get them to leave their rent stabilized apartment.

Ephraim Vashovsky pleaded guilty in New York State Supreme Court today to Reckless Endangerment in the First Degree and Endangering the Welfare of a Child.

Vashovsky forced a couple and their five children, aged from one-to-12 years, to leave their fifth floor apartment at 21 East 115th Street after he purposefully made conditions there hazardous.


According to court documents, shortly after he bought the building for $3 million in May 2014, Vashovsky and his associates began a campaign to drive the family out in order to convert the building to luxury apartments.

The landlord shut off electricity, heat, hot water and running water in the building and had workers perform major demolitions in violation of DOB and HPD regulations.

“Vashovsky knowingly created gravely dangerous living conditions, including the risk of an entire building collapse, by removing structural and load-bearing elements,” said court documents, which noted that workers removed critical fire retardant materials, fire escapes, and internal walls and floors – creating the risk of a fire ripping through the building or an inhabitant falling multiple stories.

“This landmark conviction establishes for the first time that New York landlords can and will be held criminally responsible for forcing tenants to live in life-threatening conditions,” said District Attorney Cyrus Vance.

“I hope today’s guilty plea puts landlords on notice: we will not tolerate intimidation and corner-cutting measures that endanger New Yorkers, and we will not hesitate to bring criminal charges when necessary”

Public Advocate Letitia James called Vashovsky “a repeat offender on my Worst Landlords List. I want to thank District Attorney Vance for ensuring this landlord was brought to justice and for protecting New Yorker’s right to a safe and decent home,” said James.

The case comes days after the City Council passed new legislation aimed at protecting tenants from harassment. The Certification of No Harassment (CONH) legislation will require covered building owners seeking to demolish or make significant alterations to their building to prove they have not engaged in harassment before they can get the permits they need from the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB).

If a landlord is found to have harassed tenants, they would not be able to pull those permits for five years – unless they make a substantial portion of their building affordable to low-income families, with no public subsidy.

Housing attorney Kara Rakowski, a partner at Belkin Burden Wenig & Goldman called the bill a “clear overreach by the City.”

“Although this is a limited duration pilot program, and while we still have to wait for HPD to issue its Rule, this Bill is extremely disturbing,’ said Rakowski. “This legislation is a clear overreach by the City which could deprive owners of their property rights and due process.

“There is no evidence that this type of legislation will either prevent or deter harassment. In fact, subsequent owners who wish to clean up and renovate or develop covered properties would be forced to designate 20-25 percent of their building to affordable housing in perpetuity or be prevented from doing the work. Moreover, the issue of harassment will be investigated in part by community groups designated by HPD.”

The CONH program has been in place in Hell’s Kitchen since 1974, and a similar requirement applies to all Single-Room Occupancy buildings (SROs) citywide. Tenant advocates have been working to expand the program to neighborhoods with rising rents, where tenants are at particular risk of displacement.

The new policy is the latest in a series of efforts under Mayor Bill de Blasio to protect tenants and increase affordable housing options.

In October, landlord Steve Croman was jailed for tax evasion for refinancing loans by submitting applications with phony rent rolls that showed market rate rents for units held by rent-stabilized tenants.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is also pursing a civil case against the man dubbed “The Bernie Madoff of Landlords,” for harassing tenants of his 140 buildings, trying to get rid of rent-regulated residents to replace them with higher paying market rate tenants.


Reading man jailed after burglary at apartment house

Alleged Suspect: Terence R. Barber

READING, PA – City police arrested a man after he broke into an apartment house in the same south Reading neighborhood where he lives, investigators said Monday.Terence R. Barber, 29, of the 400 block of South Fifth Street was taken into custody shortly before noon Saturday.

Police said that Barber was arrested after one of the residents of the building he had entered about an hour earlier called to report that he had confronted the suspect.

Barber was committed to Berks County Prison in lieu of $10,000 bail after arraignment before District Judge Victor M. Frederick IV in Reading Central Court.

He is charged with burglary, trespassing and receiving stolen property.
According to police:

A tenant in the building, also in the 400 block of South Fifth, called 9-1-1 after hearing a window breaking on the floor above.

Police arrived and spoke to another resident of the building, who led officers to the kitchen, where there was a broken window and glass on the floor.

The man said that he was asleep but awoke when the door to his room opened. A man later identified as Barber started to enter the room. When he saw the room was occupied, he said, “Someone let me in.” He then closed the door and fled.

The victim got out of bed and went down the stairs to the kitchen. He saw the intruder leaving through the window, going down the fire escape and running north in an alley.

The victim said that he had seen the same man sitting on the steps of the building in the same block. About an hour later, he called police to report he “caught” the suspect.

The victim identified Barber as the person inside the building. A witness said that he found a necklace belonging to the victim with Barber while speaking to him in Barber’s home.

Source: READING EAGLE Tuesday November 28, 2017 12:01 AM

McDonald woman, children, boyfriend forced out of burning duplex

Amber Coleman, in gray sweatshirt, looks Wednesday morning at what remains of the steps and porch of her home.

McDonald woman, children, boyfriend forced out of burning duplex

A man on his way to a gym to work out early Wednesday alerted residents of a McDonald duplex it was on fire after spotting flames shooting out near the rear entrance.

Amber Coleman, her two daughters, ages 3 and 6, and her boyfriend had to climb onto a porch roof of the duplex at 110 North St. to escape the flames. A neighbor put a ladder up to the roof to rescue them. The children were off the roof when McDonald firefighters arrived to rescue the adults.

Bernie Dhanse, identified as the owner of the duplex by McDonald police, was able to escape from his first-floor apartment.

“I woke up and some guy was pounding on the side of the house,” Coleman said. “The stairs in the back were the only entrance to the apartment. All I could see in the back were smoke and flames.

“I just had knee surgery,” she added. “I didn’t have time to grab anything.”

McDonald fire Chief Terry Kerr said because of limited manpower, firefighters focused on getting the residents to safety before battling the flames.

Firefighters arrived at the scene minutes after getting the call just after 6 a.m.

Kerr said a state police fire marshal will investigate.

“I believe it started on the back porch,” Kerr said. “We were able to contain the damage to the porch area and kitchen.”

Firefighters were able to quickly put out the fire, but it was intense enough to melt the siding of a neighboring duplex on Grant Street.

Assisting at the scene were firefighters from Mt. Pleasant Township (Hickory), Midway, Cecil Township (No.3) and Sturgeon. No injuries were reported.

Source: By Kathie Warco, Observer-Reporter.com Nov 29, 2017 Updated Nov 29, 2017

New Fire Escape Design in the Making: Evacuation Elevators

New Fire Escape Design in the Making: Evacuation Elevators

By Gabe Escapes, National Fire Escape Association™ published November 29, 2017.

With the many advancements in the realm of fire protection, it comes to no surprise that the latest fire and life safety technology comes in the form of evacuation elevators for exterior balconies and stairways complete to grade. For many high-rise buildings, it’s the next big thing. Traditional old fire escapes are a thing of the past, as this new design promises to evacuate occupants at faster rates than ever before due to its design.

While still in its early stages of development, the evacuation elevator continues to receive international praise by many concerned stakeholders who in essence hope to one day be able to install them at many of the high-rise buildings they manage across the globe.

Developed by a Korean company called Negiro, the evacuation elevator is designed for use for fires or other natural disasters where rapid escapes are critical for occupant safety and survival. Technically, when stairwells are unavailable or unsuitable for use during an emergency, occupants and patrons will have another shot to save their life as a new option to escape and reach safety has been developed.

So what exactly is the difference between fire escapes and evacuation elevators? While, being uniquely similar, traditional fire escapes are typically constructed with materials that are meant to stay in fixed positions for its entire lifespan as to guarantee structural integrity and stability when used with the exception of cantilevers and accordion ladders. This new design in the other hand, is powered by hydraulics and designed to work under power outages if needed.

Source: Cheddar & Nerigo Company

Man injured in fall from fire escape in Pilsen

Sun-Times file photo

A man was injured in a fall from a fire escape Tuesday morning in the Pilsen neighborhood on the Near West Side.

About 10 a.m., the 39-year-old man was working on the first-floor fire escape in the 1800 block of South Blue Island when it detached from the building and he fell, according to Chicago Police.

Source: Chicago News By Jordan Owen @byjordanowen 11/21/2017, 03:54pm

County examines expensive, dangerous fire escape

One of the fire escapes at the Wapello County Courthouse goes to the third-floor main courtroom. Tests revealed the staircase is not safe.

OTTUMWA — There are ways to leave the courthouse during a fire. Just don’t flee by the fire escape — it isn’t safe.

The metal stairs outside several Wapello County Courthouse windows may be starting to pull away from that outer wall. Testing should be done every five years, a fire escape salesman and inspector from Ohio said. That was news to the county supervisors.

“I asked the fire department, and they’d never heard of it either,” said the current Wapello County Board of Supervisor’s chairman, Jerry Parker. “But it is a law. And we also want our courthouse to be safe.”

The test went poorly. These stairs are required to support 800 pounds. The fire escapes failed.

“I wouldn’t trust them to support me,” said Parker.

One way to get out to the fire escape is through a door you may have seen (it looks like a window, Parker said) in the main courtroom. There’s an exit sign right in front of it. But besides not trusting the outside metal stairs, law enforcement told the county that providing an easy access escape route in the courtroom where felony trials take place might not be a good idea.

“Really, I think they were worried someone was going to come in that way and hide a gun,” he said.

So that door had already been locked. But a brief examination of the outside of the courthouse shows multiple entry points onto the flawed fire escape. Each has an exit sign by it. None should be used. Which prompts another question: Should those signs be removed, or is that illegal?

This doesn’t mean the board automatically needs to put in new fire escapes. Since the sprinklers have been repaired, supervisors discussed, perhaps the regular steps could be the emergency exit. They’ll need some guidance on rules and what will be safest: For example, fire code may require there to be two ways to escape a burning structure.

An engineer and an architect patrolled the courthouse recently.

“They did a final walk around,” said Parker. “They’ve talked to the state fire marshal’s office and will talk to the fire department here. We should have an answer in about a week.”

Obviously, new fire escapes hadn’t figured into the budget. The estimate said a new fire escape will cost $250,000 for one. The courthouse currently needs two. What it needs to be safe during an emergency could be discussed as soon as the next supervisors’ meeting.

Source: Ottumwa Courier, contact reporter Mark Newman at MNewman@OttumwaCourier.com or visit his Twitter page, @CourierMark.

Hamilton Heights fire engulfs roof of apartment building, injures nine, officials say

A fire in Hamilton Heights reached at least five alarms on Friday, Nov. 17, 2017, the FDNY said. (Credit: @KevinClamato via Twitter)

A fire that heavily damaged a Hamilton Heights apartment building Friday, displacing residents and sending a massive plume of smoke into the sky, is finally under control Saturday morning.

The six-alarm fire broke out at 565 W. 144th St., near Broadway, just before 3:15 p.m., according to fire officials. High winds caused the rapid spread of the flames through the top floor of the building.

It was brought under control as of 9 a.m. Saturday, an FDNY spokeswoman said.

Roughly 255 firefighters and paramedics responded to the scene, according to the FDNY.

Seven firefighters suffered minor injuries, according to the agency. One civilian and one police officer also suffered from smoke inhalation. At least four people were taken to area hospitals.

The American Red Cross of Greater New York is helping 20 families, including 44 adults and nine children, who were displaced by the fire. The organization set up a reception center Friday night at PS 153, located at 1750 Amsterdam Ave., where more than 40 people had access to hot meals, a spokesman said in an emailed statement.

“Throughout the night Red Cross workers provided housing and support for essentials (food, clothing, personal care needs, medication, etc.),” the spokesman added. “We will continue to provide long term support as the families begin the recovery process.”

One tenant remains unaccounted for and may have been inside the building when the fire broke out, FDNY Chief James Leonard said at a press conference held Saturday morning.

“At this point, we are going to reenter the building under safe conditions … to search and see if that person is up in the building,” Leonard said.

At the height of the fire, its billowing smoke plume could be seen from across the Hudson River, social media posts show. One woman tweeted a video showing the smoke rising into the sky from her office window on 137th Street.

Syndee Winters, an actress who lists “Hamilton: The Musical” under her credits, tweeted a Periscope video from across the street that shows pieces of flaming debris falling to the ground as firefighters doused the building with water from the buckets of ladder trucks.
The six-story building has 50 units and was built in 1920, according to the real estate listing firm StreetEasy. Official from the city’s Department of Buildings will visit the scene Saturday to determine whether the entire structure should come down, Leonard said at the press conference.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

By AM NEW YORK. Lauren Cook and Nicole Levy lauren.cook@amny.com, nicole.levy@amny.com November 18, 2017

Man found on fire escape with bag of burglary tools: Cops

By Caitlin Mota
The Jersey Journal

JERSEY CITY — A 27-year-old man was found climbing a fire escape with a backpack full of burglary tools in Downtown, authorities said.

Casey Collado was arrested on Wednesday after a brief foot pursuit with plain clothes officers, a police report of the incident indicates.

At about 12:20 a.m., police were called to Wayne Street on reports of a man on the second floor fire escape of the building. The officers found Collado trying to climb a nearby fence when they arrived, the report states.

Police told him to stop and he refused. The officers called for backup and Collado was arrested on Christopher Columbus Drive a short time later, authorities said.

Collado was carrying two crowbars, a hammer, and a screwdriver in his backpack. Police also found nine credits cars, a hospital ID card, and a drivers license, the report states.

He was charged with criminal trespassing, possession of burglary tools, and resisting arrest.

Source: Caitlin Mota may be reached at cmota@jjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @caitlin_mota. Find The Jersey Journal on Facebook.

Massive party in Denton ends with floor collapsing into apartment below

A jam-packed apartment party in Denton ended abruptly Sunday morning when the floor went crashing into the apartment below.

The incident was caught on video from multiple angles. People at the party, many of them UNT students, had to crawl from the empty second-floor apartment, back to the third. Somehow, injuries were minor.

Videos show water spewing from broken pipes as people climb over beams and plywood to escape.

It could’ve been life or death for Carley Carroll, who lives in that second-floor apartment below the party. Carroll and her three roommates, all sophomores at the University of North Texas, were not home at the time. They were at the Denton Police Department, making a noise complaint just before 2 a.m.

“I have nowhere to go. Everything I own is in there,” said Carroll. “That’s life-threatening. If we were in our living room, we wouldn’t have made it out because by what we’ve seen, it’s just completely gone.”

Carroll and her roommates are not the only ones affected. Fifty other residents are also displaced.

“People gotta grab their wallets, keys, backpacks because we have school tomorrow,” said Trent Blackburn.

Police estimate there were 100 people at the party. Carroll says that’s typical; she’s called the cops on the partygoers before.

“We’ve called and said, ‘It looks like the ceiling is going to cave in,’ so I feel like with us saying that, there could’ve been more that was done,” said Carroll.

Denton Police are working to confirm the previous noise complaints. Police say those type of calls are low priority in nature and people have usually left the party by the time officers arrive.

This incident was upgraded to a possible mass casualty incident. There is now an investigation into the structural failure. Students affected by this say both the apartment management and the university have helped secure places for them to stay, mostly in hotels or dorms and food.

Students who live on the first floor said they’re still dealing with the effects of the collapse. One girl said a bathtub from an upper floor fell into her closet on Monday.

While other people started recording pandemonium at the party, Mickey Hicks’ military training kicked in.

“I just see water spraying everywhere from the plumbing,” he recalled. “People were yelling, screaming. Just trying to find a way to out.”

The 22-year-old was among the 100 partygoers inside this apartment when he felt the floor shaking.

“I like to use common sense. There were too many people jumping. We’re on the third floor. You could feel it,” he said. “I took three steps. Heard chaos and screaming. I was like, ‘I bet you the floor just fell in.'”

Hicks turned back around, opened the door and started reaching for arms.

“I think the military really taught me that,” he said.

Hicks just got out of the Army and says he’ll soon start school at UNT. He guesses he pulled 30 people who were cut and bleeding but not seriously injured.

A spokesman for the complex said structural engineers have been examining the building. Until they get a report, the complex doesn’t know if the damage is repairable or not.

The apartment complex says it will give residents seven days of rent credited to them. Denton Police and Fire are no longer investigating it, but it could progress as a civil matter.

Carroll says fake fundraising pages have been set up by people pretending to be her and her roommates, hoping to take advantage of their situation. They are asking people not to donate to those fundraisers.

Source: FOX4News.com Staff POSTED: NOV 12 2017 10:01PM CST VIDEO POSTED: NOV 13 2017 09:45PM CST UPDATED: NOV 13 2017 09:49PM CST


Fire Escape Plans For Apartments

Two big fires at two apartment complexes destroy people’s lives this past weekend, but no one died.

One happened in Starkville and the other in Vernon, Alabama.

It was a close call for residents, but it’s why firefighters say you should have an escape plan.

You might think living in an apartment would mean you need a different escape plan than a house, but that’s not necessarily true.

Firemen say all fires have similarities and both places have similar escape routes.

Most apartment complexes have one common stairwell through the middle of the building with units on each side.

Some residents wonder how they would escape if the stairs were ever cut off by fire or falling debris.

“I think until it happens to you, maybe you don’t even, you know, think about it at all,” says Laura Emelio.

Emelio has been living on the second floor of Franklin Apartments in Columbus, for five months.

It’s the first time she’s lived on a top floor and now, she also has to worry about Luna.

“This is the only way out, so you know, if the fire was coming up through the stairs, I would have to jump out through the window or something, because you know, this is the only exit.”

Starkville Fire Marshal Mark McCurdy says whether you live in an apartment or a home, there’s always two ways out to escape a fire.

“Obviously, your first way out is going to be through your main entrance, whatever that is, your front door if you will, and typically your second way out is a window, a bedroom window, or something of that nature.”

McCurdy says once you get to a window, try to let someone know where you are.

“Try to get a fireman’s attention, you know, maybe hang a sheet out of the window, throw something, even throw something out of the window just to get somebody’s attention, so if there’s time, then they can put up a ladder or some sorts like that, and climb up and get you down safely.”

McCurdy tells residents if there’s no time, they need to jump and try to land on anything that could soften the fall.

“I have heard to try and roll into it. That is something I have heard about, you know, when you are jumping, to try and not catch it all on your feet, so I guess that’s what I would do,” says Emelio.

McCurdy suggests to buy a throw over fire escape ladder if you live on a second story or higher.

Source: WBCI, Missouri