Locals and city leaders in the Bronx are fighting to retain the neighborhood’s affordable housing, which is gradually being swept up by banks aiming to capitalize on the buildings’ foreclosures.
According to Blackvoices.com, politicians, local residents and housing advocates rallied outside a decrepit Bronx building on April 7 to jumpstart a battle against New York Community Bank. Critics say the company fervently attempts to profit off of seized foreclosed apartment buildings in the area and sell them at higher prices. But as property prices soar, the upkeep of the buildings remain in limbo and residents are forced to live in dreadful conditions.
One notable establishment involved in the fight is considered by many as the birthplace of hip-hop.
1520 Sedgwick Ave., which is the former home of hip-hop pioneer Clive Campbell, commonly known as DJ Kool Herc. Rap connoisseurs claim the apartment complex is the birthplace of hip-hop, as he often held parties performing early forms of the genre in the complex’s community center in the early 1970s.
“It was a great place to live, and Kool Herc has said on many occasions that it was living in this stable community that freed him up to explore what became known as hip-hop,” Diana Levy, director of organizing and policy at the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, told Black Voices.
Teaming with tenants and politicians, Kool Herc fought against looming plans to sell the property to an investor, but lost the battle when it was sold in 2008. Shortly thereafter, its residents suffered as conditions worsened and it slipped into foreclosure. But a nonprofit organization purchased the establishment and is poised to revive it as a site of low-income housing. According to a New York City government press release, officials donated over $3 million to the establishment to ensure its repair.
Still, many of the borough’s other low-income complexes are in jeopardy of being transformed. As a result, local leaders are pushing for federal regulators to implement a provision in Dodd Frank financial reform law that requires that buildings are sold to responsible landlords and banks that loan mortgage money to unfit buyers will be penalized.
Housing officials say they will diligently continue their fight to retain low-income housing.
“We are acting affirmatively to preserve the diversity of our city over the long term,” New York City Housing Official President Marc Jahr said in a 2010 statement. “We will continue to work tirelessly with tenants, owners, banks and advocates to achieve that goal.”
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that his Housing Marketplace Plan will create and preserve over 165,000 units of affordable housing by 2014.