Hip Hop pioneer DJ Kool Herc, aka Clive Campbell, was among the guests who re-opened the renovated apartment building where the music genre was born last week.
The formerly rundown 1520 Sedgwick Avenue on the Bronx has been reborn as a modern, affordable development through the city’s New Housing Marketplace Plan (NHMP) at a cost of $16.8 million. And as the ribbon was cut on the new-look 102-apartment building, DJ Kool was hailed for his role in the fight to restore the property.
“Today we celebrate the fact that through a lot of hard work and determination we helped to bring 1520 Sedgwick back to life and returned it to its roots as good quality affordable housing,ˮ said HPD Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas. “We put together a powerful team of concerned partners and thanks to this collaborative effort the legacy and the future of the birthplace of Hip Hop is once again secure.”
In August of 1973, DJ Kool Herc and his sister Cindy Campbell organized a back to school party in the recreation room at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, the first of many Hip Hop parties the building would go on to host.
As Herc ushered in a new genre of music and Hip Hop blossomed into a worldwide culture, 1520 Sedgwick fell on tough times and eventually succumbed to a cycle of speculative ownership that allowed the building to slide into a state of financial and physical distress.
In 2008, the apartment building was bought out of the Mitchell-Lama program by a developer in 2008. He planned to remove the residents and resell the property.
It was then that Senator Chuck Schumer joined DJ Herc and tenants to try to block the owner’s plan and preserve 1520 Sedgwick as an affordable housing resource for the community.
With an overleveraged mortgage and the onset of the housing and financial crises gripping the nation, a resale became increasingly difficult. The owner ignored the mounting maintenance issues and escalating housing code violations, and left the tenants to fend for themselves as the physical conditions of the property steadily declined.
City officials, Schumer, and Congressman José Serrano advocated on behalf of the tenants, and worked with WinnResidential and WHFA to negotiate the purchase of the outstanding mortgage note from Sovereign Bank.
The NYC Housing Development Corporation (HDC) approved a $5.6 million loan that allowed WinnResidential and WHFA to purchase the mortgage note and take the property thought the foreclosure process with the ultimate aim of taking title, rehabbing the building and keeping rents affordable.
With a lengthy foreclosure process completed, WinnResidential and WHFA were able to take title to the property in February 2012 and began the extensive rehabilitation work that included installing new elevator cabs, bathroom and kitchen upgrades, new flooring and painting in each unit, replacement and upgrading of building mechanics including a new heating and ventilation system, electrical upgrades, installation of a new roof, new building doors, window repairs, upgrading of the lobby and common spaces, extensive masonry work, and installation of a closed circuit security system.
The total cost of rehabilitation was $16.8 million. Funding was provided by a loan from HPD for $4.5 million from the third round of the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program, and $1.6 million from the 421a fund. The Community Preservation Corporation (CPC) provided a $6.8 million loan. The NYC Comptroller’s office on behalf of the NYC Pension Funds, committed a $6.8 million 30-year mortgage to take out CPC’s construction loan.
The fixed-rate mortgage is 100% insured by the State of New York Mortgage Agency (SONYMA). The City Council provided $3 million in Reso A funding. More than $880,000 was contributed in developer equity.
Existing tenants currently have rents that are affordable to households with incomes ranging between 60-70% Area Median Income (AMI) which is equivalent to $49,800 and $58,100 respectively for a family of four.
Speaking at the ribbon cutting last week, DJ Kool Herc said, “A new birth has just begun. Even though it was a struggle, we never gave up. This is the home of Hip Hop and its home to a lot of people who were here in the good times and in the times when things got bad. Through it all we fought hard to make this a better place, and today we’re seeing that work pay off. The tenants, Senator Schumer, the City and all of these people who stood up have helped to get us to this day.”
Sen. Schumer said the ribbon cutting marked a big win for the tenants of 1520 Sedgwick, who can now return to their newly renovated homes.
“1520 Sedgwick is an important piece of New York City’s history and culture and that’s part of why I fought so hard to preserve it,” said the senator.
“I am thrilled that because of our efforts, 1520 Sedgwick remains an affordable housing resource for the community and I applaud all those involved in fighting to save the birthplace of hip-hop.”
The Bronx of today is a far cry from the days of DJ Kool Herc’s famous Hip Hop parties at 1520 Sedgwick, when in the 1970s and 80s the City experienced a vicious cycle of mass abandonment and urban flight that scarred communities and left neighborhoods severely blighted.
Over the course of those years the City took ownership of more than 101,000 units of abandoned housing throughout the five boroughs via the in-rem tax foreclosure process.
Starting with an effort initiated in the Koch Administration and carried through the Bloomberg Administration, the City has invested billions of dollars and re-purposed that pipeline of in-rem housing stock to rebuild and revitalize the very neighborhoods they once blighted.
In the Bronx alone, the Bloomberg Administration’s New Housing Marketplace Plan has invested $7.5 billion to finance the construction and preservation of 49,167 units of affordable housing.