1520 Sedgwick Avenue is a 102-unit apartment building in the Morris Heights neighborhood in the Bronx, New York City. It is recognized as a long-time "haven for working class families". On July 5, 2007, 1520 Sedgwick Avenue was recognized by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation as the birthplace of hip hop.
1520 Sedgwick Avenue has been called "an otherwise unremarkable high-rise just north of the Cross Bronx Expressway and hard along the Major Deegan Expressway." As hip hop grew throughout the Bronx, 1520 was a starting point where Clive Campbell, later known as DJ Kool Herc, presided over parties in the community room at a pivotal point in the genre's history. DJ Kool Herc is credited with helping to start hip hop and rap music at a house concert at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue on August 11, 1973. At the concert he was DJing and emceeing in the recreation room of 1520 Sedgwick Avenue.
Ownership and maintenance
Starting in the early 2000s, building owners threatened to turn 1520 into high rent units. Senator Schumer led a rally in 2007 focused on maintaining the affordable costs of the housing in order to maintain its working class roots. Starting in 2007 the building's owners sought to repeal the status afforded to the building by the Mitchell-Lama Housing Program, which allowed it to maintain rent control for low-income and working class residents. Despite work by groups such as the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board and the Tenants and Neighbors Association to preserve the building’s Mitchell-Lama status, the courts allowed the building's status to be repealed. In 2008 the building was sold to a real estate group that included Mark Karasick, a prominent real estate investor, which intended to turn the building into market-rate housing. However, after the United States housing bubble burst a period of neglect and threats of forced evictions daunted residents, and despite promises to the opposite, the building fell into decline. In 2010 the city's Housing Development Corporation provided a $5.6 million loan to allow Winn Development and a new group called Workforce Housing Advisors to buy the building’s mortgage from Sovereign Bank for $6.2 million.
The new ownership of 1520 Sedgwick is seen by public officials and housing advocates as a huge victory in the struggle to preserve affordable housing in New York City. It is a big step forward in the fight to rescue low income housing from the disastrous impact overleveraging has had on this vulnerable resource. The rescue of 1520 Sedgwick was largely made possible through a sustained organizing campaign within the tenant body. Residents of this iconic building fought for over 5 years to maintain the affordability of their home and rescue it from speculative landlords.