On July 5, 1520 Sedgwick Avenue was recognized by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation as the “Birthplace of Hip-Hop.”
The tenants and supporters of the affordable housing development in the Bronx are now hoping that the recognition will help them avoid being booted from their homes.
In February, word came that the owner of the high-rise was looking into selling the property so that the units could be converted to market-rate apartments.
This morning, elected officials, including Senator Charles Schumer and Congressman Jose Serrano, along with musicians and tenants, planned to congregate at the historic address to lobby for the preservation of the affordable housing complex.
The full press release from the Save 1520 Sedgwick Ave. Coalition is below.
Tenants, Musicians & Elected Officials Celebrate Birthplace of Hip-Hop;
Decry Pending Loss of Affordable Housing
Bronx, NY- On Monday July 23, 9:30 AM, at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, Senator
Charles Schumer, Congressman Jose Serrano and other elected officials
will join tenants, musicians, and historians to celebrate NY State’s formal
recognition of 1520 Sedgwick Ave. as the official birth place of Hip Hop
and push for the property’s preservation as affordable Mitchell-Lama
On July 5, 2007, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and
Historic Preservation determined 1520 Sedgwick Ave. eligible for the State and
National Register of Historic Places (see attached), the first site in
the nation to receive this recognition based upon its connection to the
history of hip-hop.
Although the building is under 50 years old, a criterion that landmarks
usually have to meet, 1520 Sedgwick Ave. was determined to be of
“exceptional importance” and joined the ranks of sites such as the
Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building in achieving such recognition.
Additionally, 1520 is also eligible for the high honor of National
The State’s determination letter credits DJ Kool Herc as the music
genre’s founder. Herc lived in the building in the seventies where he and his
sister Cindy Campbell held a series of public parties in the community room.
His music style evolved into what is now considered hip hop; today the genre
is recognized as an American art-form of global significance. “Who would
have thought that a place like 1520 Sedgwick Ave, our own little Bethlehem,
would become the birthplace of hip hop and would make history,” said DJ Kool
“It’s so important that the incredible history of 1520 Sedgwick and all
it represents is being recognized,” said historic preservationist Andrew
Berman, who assisted with the landmark application. “History is made
not just by the rich and powerful, but by poor and working-class and
marginalized people, for whom the challenges they face can become the
inspiration for transforming the world around them. There is no better
example than 1520 Sedgwick, where the musical innovation and ingenuity
of DJ Cool Herc and the people around him spawned a cultural movement which
transformed, and is still transforming, the world.”
However, 1520 Sedgwick Ave. is under threat. In February 2007, tenants
received notice of the owner’s intent to buy-out of the Mitchell-Lama
program and covert the property to market rate. Tenants fear that as the
market changes around them, they will be pressured to leave the building
to make room for tenants who can pay higher rents. “How do I explain to my
children that our landlord’s greed is more important than the stability
of the only place they’ve ever called home,” said tenant Robin Gouldborne.
Over the last several years, more than 40,000 units have been lost due
to Mitchell Lama buy-outs in New York City. Another 39,000 units are still
at risk- including the 100 units that comprise 1520 Sedgwick. The nonprofit
housing organizations NY State Tenants & Neighbors and the Urban
Homesteading Assistance Board have partnered with tenants to form the
“Save 1520 Sedgwick Ave. Coalition,” which is calling on Mayor Bloomberg to
issue a moratorium on buy-outs of all city-funded Mitchell-Lamas until an
effective preservation strategy has been identified and implemented.
“Today’s event is one of the first events to celebrate centrality of the
Bronx to the birth of hip hop,” Congressman Serrano said. “Those who
were here at the beginning, in this building, on this block, in this
community, and who remained here through the fires, the crack wars, and the near
destruction of these neighborhoods are also recognized today for their
perseverance and their steadfast belief that a better day was coming.
Now that this day has arrived, we need to redouble our efforts to ensure
that they can remain here and that 1520 Sedgwick will always be a place of
affordability where our next generation of young artists, MC’s, DJ’s and
dancers can be nurtured.”