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New York City thrives when we lift each other up. This week, I'm writing to let you know about successful legal action concerning the rights of tenants and public school students with disabilities.

Landlord and Colleagues Indicted
No tenants deserve to be illegally harassed and pushed out of their homes. After months of work with the District Attorney's Office, on Tuesday, District Attorney Cy Vance indicted Ephraim Vashovsky, one of New York City's worst landlords, along with two of his colleagues, for forcing tenants to live in life-threatening conditions. By illegally renovating a rent-stabilized East Harlem apartment building while it was occupied, Vashovsky created what news outlets have called a "deathtrap" for a family of seven, including five young children. In an effort to evict the tenants, the three defendants shut off their electricity, heat, water, and subjected them to fire and building collapse risks. This indictment sends a powerful message that tenant harassment will be met with more than just a slap on the wrist.

Fight Continues for Air-Conditioned School Buses
Between this week's high temperatures and excessive humidity, it is more important than ever that we keep cool. Unfortunately, the City's Department of Education (DOE) continues to illegally transport students with disabilities on dangerously hot school buses during the summer months. Even worse, these students are often unable to verbalize their discomfort. My office recently achieved justice for two students with autism who will now be guaranteed access to brand new buses with air-conditioning. However, our fight is not over. We are still pursuing a lawsuit that we filed last year to seek relief for not just two, but all children with disabilities who are illegally forced to endure 90-degree bus rides.

I hope you all have an enjoyable and safe weekend.


Letitia James

New York City Public Advocate