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Judge Boots Superintendent from Sunset Park Rent-Strike Building

By Alan Neuhauser | August 21, 2012 3:48pm

BROOKLYN — A Sunset Park building superintendent who allegedly punched and elbowed a rent-striking tenant in the head hard enough to put her in a hospital last month was sent packing by a judge Monday.

Isrrael Espinoza was arraigned on four misdemeanor assault and harassment charges at the Red Hook Community Justice Center. He was also slapped with an order of protection, forcing him to leave the building in a matter of hours and stay away from the tenant, 49-year-old Francisca Ixtilico, according to the Kings County district attorney's office.

A pair of cops escorted Espinoza to and from the building at 553 46th St. on Monday afternoon, which was plastered with neon posters protesting the property's allegedly squalid living conditions. Residents and their supporters jeered as he packed his bags and left, then cheered as Ixtilico emerged through the front door minutes later to join the celebration outside.

"We're happy with the results today," said Ixtilico, who moved to the U.S. from Mexico in 2005, through a translator.

"The experience I had, it traumatized me. I still have a lot of fear," she said.

Ixtilico told prosecutors she sustained swelling and bruises in the alleged attack, which occurred in the building's basement on July 13, the DA's office stated.

A private electrical contractor, accompanied by members of Occupy Sunset Park, La Casita Comunal de Sunset Park, and Trinity Lutheran Church, was touring the building when Espinoza allegedly attempted to block the group from seeing more of the property. He then reportedly shoved, struck and elbowed the Ixtilico.

Dennis Flores, organizer of Occupy Sunset Park, said he intervened and was also arrested. Formal charges against him are still pending, the DA's office stated.

Flores called Monday's ruling "a small victory."

"Finally something got done today," he said. "Something we're happy about. But we're not content."

Tenants have not paid rent since June, citing dozens of Department of Buildings violations and complaints for faulty wiring, rodent infestations and a floor-to-ceiling garbage pile in the basement. The building's owner, Orazio Petito, is on Public Advocate Bill de Blasio's list of the city's worst landlords, with 253 infractions.

Posters covered the front of the building at 553 46th St. in Sunset Park Monday afternoon, Aug. 20, 2012.
Posters covered the front of the building at 553 46th St. in Sunset Park Monday afternoon, Aug. 20, 2012.
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DNAinfo/Alan Neuhauser

"Lights going out every summer. No heat in the winter. Bed bugs, mice," said Riccey Trelles, 20, who has lived in the building her whole life. "This building looks like it's been destroyed."

Residents have pledged to continue the strike until improvements are made, Flores said. They are also exploring options to purchase the property and convert it into a co-op.

Espinoza is next scheduled to appear in criminal court for a pre-trial hearing Oct. 23.