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“Bronx birthplace of hip-hop” saved

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The building known as the birthplace of hip-hop has been saved from near ruin with help from a city program designed to aid multifamily buildings in distress.

D.J. Kool Herc first spun his rap records in the recreation room of 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the 1970s, and now the Associated Press is reporting that Herc believes the sale of the 102-unit apartment building, which has fallen into distress recently, will be “a great moment” when it is finalized, likely in spring 2011.

The New York City Housing Development Corporation has pledged a $5.6 million loan to Boston-based WinnResidential and Workforce Housing Advisors to purchase the mortgage note of the building and get it back under responsible ownership to assure long-term affordability for current and future residents.

The money was made possible after the building, now in receivership, was made part of a program called the New Housing Marketplace planintended to assist buildings that have fallen under hard times due to neglect from landlords.

The City Council, led by Speaker Christine Quinn, already committed $3 million to restore it to good repair.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg hailed the city’s financing of the pending sale as a way to keep the building affordable and desirable.

“New York City’s economy may be recovering faster than the nation’s, but real estate speculation that led up to the recession left many apartment buildings throughout the city in trouble,” Bloomberg said.

“In January, we launched a $750 million program to protect New Yorkers in such buildings. It will enable us to reverse the declining conditions at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, famed for its role as the birthplace of hip-hop, and keep it affordable for hundreds of tenants.”

Problems first began at the building in 2008, when a developer bought the property and planned to remove the current tenants and quickly resell. When the real estate market headed south, so did conditions at the building, which was largely neglected.

Tenants were left to cope with many housing code violations and substandard living conditions.

Currently, according to tenant association president Gloria Robinson, one of the building’s two elevators is not working and there is only one working laundry room. Robinson admitted it was a lucky break that the building was a known landmark of hip-hop, which helped shine a light on the problem.

“We have met with the receiver and he is confident that conditions will improve and that we will be satisfied with the results,” Robinson said. “We were paying rent to the previous landlord and none of it was put back into the building. The only way that we could get anything done was to go to court. We hope that some of the conditions will now be addressed.”

Saving the building, and hopefully getting elevator service back, too, was a joint effort between the mayor and speaker, as well as U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, Congressman Jose Serrano, Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and Councilwoman Helen Foster.

“I congratulate the tenants of 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in their victory to stop predatory investors,” Foster said.

“I am pleased to see how all of the elected officials at the state, city, and local levels have come together as a team to help the tenants of 1520 Sedgwick Avenue maintain the viability and affordability of their building.”

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