Tenants’ Return to Rehabbed, Preserved Birthplace of Hip Hop

1520 Sedgewick Avenue in the Bronx was not your average building purchased by a speculative real estate investor in the housing crisis aftermath. It's known as the birthplace of hip hop, for the parties thrown in its rec room by DJ Kool Herc starting in 1973.

But when speculators descended, it was also in very real danger of becoming another example of long-time affordable housing in an improving area lost. Shelterforce wrote about that struggle in 2011.

Happily, the plan the tenants were holding their breath about when we last covered the fight came through. Affordable housing developer Workforce Housing Associates was able to foreclose on the predatory equity owner and assemble the financing to completely rehab the neglected building while keeping it affordable to tenants at 60-70 percent of area median income.

“Today we celebrate an important victory against predatory equity,” said Kerri White, director of organizing and policy at the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, which helped the tenants organize, at the celebration of the completion of renvoations on Sept. 27. “The tenants of 1520 Sedgwick began organizing to prevent a speculative real estate deal that threatened building conditions and the affordability of their homes. When that campaign was lost, the tenants refused to be harassed or to settle for neglectful maintenance, choosing rather to keep fighting for their community. We are grateful to supporters like Senator Schumer, Congressman Serrano, HPD, DJ Kool Herc, Workforce Housing Advisors and most importantly the residents of 1520 Sedgwick, for being an inspiration to all NYC tenants in the fight to preserve affordable housing.”


Photo: Front row (left to right): Geraldine Davis, Gloria Robinson, Mary Fountain (all 1520 Sedgwick Ave Tenants Assn)


Back row (left to right): John Murnane (Erin Construction), Jack Coogan (OCV Architects), Kevin Gallagher (WFHA), Andy Reicher (UHAB), John Crotty (WFHA), Mathew Wambua (Former HPD Commissioner), Ruben Diaz (Bronx BP), Roy Swan (Morgan Stanley), Rafael Cestero (CPC President), DJ Kool Herc, Anthony Jordan (Cong Serrano’s office), Cindy Campbell, RuthAnne Visnauskas (HPD Commissioner), Vanessa Gibson (Assemblymember)

Miriam Axel-Lute is CEO/editor-in-chief of Shelterforce. She lives in Albany, New York, and is a proud small-city aficionado.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.