Sunday, February 24th, 2008

LA Times on Saving 1520

A piece from Louise Roug in today’s LAT on 1520 Sedgwick:

In August 1973, a hulking Jamaican American teenager named Clive Campbell started throwing back-to-school parties with his sister Cindy in their building, 1520 Sedgwick Ave.

Campbell, nicknamed Hercules because of his size, bought multiple copies of the same albums and, spinning his turntables, stitched together a new genre with a mix of music and break beats.

Soon teenagers were flocking to parties in the recreation room. Two-by-fours and metal crates served as chairs and tables, but no one was sitting down; the place was packed with dancing kids.

“It got a little out of control,” said Campbell, who became known as DJ Kool Herc. And so music and turntables moved from Sedgwick Avenue to the nearby Twilight Zone club, and hip-hop spread throughout the city.

“We weren’t doing [the parties] for money — it was just about music,” said Campbell, who is considered by many a founding father of hip-hop.

He sees the building on Sedgwick as a musical monument like Graceland or the Apollo Theater in Harlem. “This is part of the American dream,” Campbell said.

This summer, state officials declared the building the “birthplace of hip-hop,” making it eligible for national and state registers.

But for Pauline Beckham, 54, the battle to buy the building is not about preserving the past. She is fighting to save her home of eight years, a place where she has watched children hunt for Easter eggs in spring and attended barbecues in summer.

“I thought I had a safe environment,” Beckham said, referring to her modest two- bedroom apartment decorated with family pictures and ironwork above the kitchen door.

“Why are they taking the little bit we have?” she asked, despair creeping into her voice. “I didn’t think they could do that.”

Built almost 40 years ago, the building is covered by the state Mitchell-Lama program, which helps moderate-income families afford housing.

Last year the owner announced plans to sell the building to high-profile New York investor Mark Karasick and opt out of the rent-control program.

A representative for the building’s management company didn’t return calls for comment.

Tenants raised money online and from city agencies and other organizations — about $11 million with high-profile help from DJ Kool Herc, Rep. Jose E. Serrano (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who have lobbied the city and the owner on the residents’ behalf. But the tenants need $14 million.

The city, which can overrule the sale, is expected to make a decision before the end of the month, according to Amy Chan, an organizer with Tenants and Neighbors, a statewide tenants’ rights organization that is working with the Sedgwick Avenue residents…

posted by @ 8:56 am | 1 Comment

One Response to “LA Times on Saving 1520”

  1. Mike Belgrove says:

    One of our guys over at Highbrid Nation did a nice post on DJ Kool Herc saving the “birthplace of hip hop”. How sad would it be to have such a historic landmark destroyed? It’s so important that people of the hip hop culture don’t lose our roots.

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