On August 11, 1973, in the first floor recreation room of 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, hip hop was born. It was on that day that DJ Kool Herc, known as the founder of hip hop, and his sister threw the first hip hop house party. Scholars, musicians, and the media widely recognize 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, aka General Sedgwick House, in the Bronx borough of New York City, as the birthplace of hip hop, a uniquely American musical genre and culture that has taken over the world.
In recognition of its important place in American history, in July of 2007, 1520 Sedgwick was declared eligible to be listed as a state and federal landmark. Congressman Serrano of the Bronx honored Sedgwick and Kool Herc in the Congressional record.
General Sedgwick House is currently part of the Mitchell-Lama scheme, under which, in the words of the New York Times, “private landlords receive tax breaks and subsidized mortgages and, in turn, agree to limit their return on equity and rent to people who meet modest income limits. The landlords are allowed to leave their contracts after 20 years, and the rate of those choosing to do so has accelerated since 2001.” And it seems that 1520’s owners, BSR Management, want out of the scheme. Cue property bandit Mark Karasick, who’s brokered deals for ‘skyline trophy’ buildings like the Bank Of America Center in San Francisco, and Chicago’s 311 South Wacker Drive, and who has been showing an interest in the home of hip hop – but not for musicological reasons. Karasick, it seems, has a record of buying up social housing in the Bronx and then opting out of affordability programmes and selling on at market prices, at a tasty profit for his good self, naturally.
Now, after negotiations between the tenants, the owners and Karasick, it appears that BSR Management are prepared to drop the Karasick deal and sell to the tenants… For $14 million, or more than $8 million over the value of the building through controlled rents, according to the tenants!
Ahhh, the sweet smell of rackrenting, gentrification and good old American corporate greed!
But the tenants aren’t giving up without a fight – they’re working with organisations like the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board and Tenants & Neighbors to strike a deal with the owners that will “convert 1520 Sedgwick into a permanently affordable, limited-equity cooperative [and] save 1520 Sedgwick as affordable for the next generations of New Yorkers”. And this morning, to signal their willingness to fight for their building, they held a press conference with Kool Herc in their historic rec room to publicise details of their buy-back plan.