Monday, September 29th, 2008

At Hip-Hop’s Birthplace: Hope For The Best, Preparations For The Worst

As the House of Representatives rejected an economic bailout proposal brought on by the national mortgage crisis, tenants of 1520 Sedgwick Avenue and their supporters awaited word today of the fate of the most famous address in hip-hop.

It was a day in which the drama of the nation was being mirrored at a place right the heart of hip-hop history, as tenants and their supporters began planning to save their homes while real estate developers scrambled to close a speculative deal against declining prospects for credit.

Late last week, a judge cleared the way for the landlord group behind the West Bronx apartment building to begin preparations to sell the building, whose value has been assessed at about $7 million.

The building at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, where DJ Kool Herc and Cindy Campbell threw their first party in late August 1973, is one of a declining number in New York City covered under an affordable housing mandate called the Mitchell-Lama program. It now represents the continuing decline of urban affordable housing.

But the judge’s order allows the landlord group to pay off the rest of its outstanding $5 million mortgage and remove it from the affordable housing program.

Such an action, all sides believe, would clear the way for the purchase of the building by well-known real estate developer Mark Karasick, despite an offer on the table from the tenants, the city, and their supporters to purchase 1520 Sedgwick for $10 million—$3 million above the building’s expected value.

Cindy Campbell and DJ Kool Herc have been at the head of an effort to have the building declared a historic landmark, but events have been moving quickly in the past year.

Today, Cindy Campbell worried that a sale of the building might displace over a hundred families.

“Winter is coming up. There’s elderly people, children. Some of these people have been living there for over 30 years,” she said. “People’s lives are more important than a developer trying to flip over his money.”

Dina Levy, director of organizing and policy with the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, said today that tenants and supporters of 1520 Sedgwick were baffled as to why the landlord group has apparently rejected the tenants’ offer, which was supported by New York Senator Chuck Schumer, the New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and subsidized in part by the city.

She argued that even if the building were to be sold, the rents in the building likely would not rise because of city regulations and the depressed rental market. She said she felt the tenant deal on the table was a strong one. “I can’t believe that they would not take that deal,” Levy said. “It defies logic.”

Levy added that she was unsure in this market what bank or lender might provide debt to Karasick to purchase 1520 Sedgwick.

Although the landlord group had signaled last week they intended to pay off the $5 million outstanding mortgage today, that had not occurred by the late afternoon. “There’s still the hope that we can save the building,” she said. “That’s still the goal and that’s still the hope.”

But even if the building were to be sold, eviction could not begin right away, and the efforts to preserve the building as a historic landmark and an affordable housing building may redouble in the coming months.

“At this point what I can promise we will do, will be to train the tenants on what regulations are,” Levy said. “This guy (Karsick) will not have a moment’s sleep.”

posted by @ 12:56 pm | 3 Comments

3 Responses to “At Hip-Hop’s Birthplace: Hope For The Best, Preparations For The Worst”

  1. dlipkin says:

    What a moment it would be if 1520 Sedgwick was deemed a historic landmark. Would that be the first in hip-hop history? Do you know of any others?

    I feel like that could be a good spot for a permanent hip-hop archive. A home to the traveling hip-hop archive that seems to meander from university to university.

  2. Adisa Banjoko, "The Bishop" says:

    Wheres all the “rich” rappers at when u need them? Out buying teeth….Damn shame…..Much love to all trying to save the building….

  3. andy says:

    Now that’s poetic – the birthplace of hip-hop coming full circle and becoming the home of the *official* hall-of fame/museum/archive…

    I would think that such a spot could actually stimulate business.

    Hey, even a mediocre baller like myself took a pilgrimage to Springfield, Massachusetts to visit the Basketball Hall of Fame.

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