Another small victory for 46th Street rent strikers

September 20, 2012 Denise Romano
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It’s another small victory for the 46th Street rent strikers.

La Casita de Comunal co-founder and Occupy Sunset Park founder Dennis Flores,37, was scheduled to be arraigned at the Red Hook Community Justice Center on the morning of September 12, but Judge Alex Calabrese only reinstated the order of protection against him from the buildings superintendent, Israel Espinoza.

Flores and Espinoza had an altercation on July 19, when the super allegedly prevented an electrician from inspecting faulty wiring in the 46th Street buildings’ basement. In the midst of the scuffle, elderly tenant Francisca Ixtilico was pushed to the ground, causing cerebral bleeding and a week-long stay at Lutheran Medical Center.

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The rent strikers – who are withholding monthly rent in protest of the sordid living conditions –and members of OSP, all dressed in red, flooded the tiny courtroom to support Flores.

Flores’ lawyer, David Rankin, noted that Calabrese asked if Espinoza sustained any serious injuries. The prosecuting attorney testified that the super refused medical attention at the scene and only suffered from scratching, bruises and redness, thus diminishing the case, he contended.

“In order to make out charges, [the court] must have an affidavit signed by Espinoza and they didn’t,” Rankin explained outside the building. “Now here in September, they still don’t have necessary documents to bring prosecution.”

Flores’ next court appearance is Wednesday, October 10 in Kings County Criminal Court at 120 Schermerhorn Street.

There is a very good chance when we go to Schermerhorn that [Flores will be charged with] maybe harassment or menacing but not [third degree] assault,” Rankin added. “We will make a motion to dismiss these charges. We are prepared to fight this out.”

But Flores said that he feels that he is being made an example of. “I realized immediately that the cops were interested in arresting me. The real victim is Francisca. The police never bothered to investigate [that incident],” he contended.

Flores said that after the altercation took place, police held him in the squalid basement for a half hour, “threatening and mocking” him. His shins and ankles are still covered with scabs and sores from bedbug bites that he says he sustained that day.

“It’s clear they [police] were coming after me because I am anti-police,” Flores said, adding that he is involved with activists groups such as Copwatch. “Police officers were annoyed that activists were working with tenants. We were just peacefully assembling to protest housing conditions.”

In the meantime, living conditions for the tenants have not improved.

Sara Lopez, head of the tenant’s association of the three attached buildings at 454, 553 and 557 46th Street, told this paper that the landlord, Orazio Petito, owns about 10 other buildings. When he does large renovations, he “dumps” old boilers and heating systems in her basement.

“It’s piling up to the ceiling, from one end to the other,” Lopez said. “I don’t know what I am breathing in. I have allergies all year-round now.”

She added that there have also been frequent sewer backups. “You don’t want to be in my shoes,” Lopez said.

Lopez is organizing a clean-up of the three buildings, scheduled to take place on Saturday, October 20.

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