Street renamed for Chapman, housing advocate

(l-r) Elizabeth and Thomas Chapman and Councilman Cabrera hold a copy of the new street sign.
Photo by Silvio Pacifico

A Bronx street now bears the name of Francis ‘Al’ Chapman, the former chair of the board of directors at the Kingsbridge Heights Neighborhood Improvement Association.

Members of the KHNIA were joined by Senator Gustavo Rivera and Councilman Fernando Cabrera on Monday, August 28 to name the intersection of University Avenue and West 197th Street in Kingsbridge Heights to honor the longtime community activist.

The busy location will now be known as Francis ‘Al’ Chapman Way.

“Our community continues to benefit from Al’s devotion and commitment,” said Cabrera. “I am proud to have sponsored the NYC Council legislation that honors Al with this street co-naming.”

Rivera described Chapman, who passed away in March, as a courageous community leader who dedicated more than 30 years of his life to helping his neighbors.

“There were many individuals who were there during the tough times, and in the toughest of times instead of leaving they took it upon themselves to organize their communities…to somewhere other people would want to move to,” Rivera said during a brief memorial last month.

Chapman became a vocal opponent of major capital improvement rent increases, or MCIs, which caused rents to spike in the 1980s.

Under previous laws landlords could bill tenants for capital improvements over a five-year period. However there was little oversight to make sure the work was actually done and cost what the landlord charged for it.

Longtime Northwest Bronx Clergy Coalition board member Margaret Groark said Chapman’s rallying of community organizations citywide in opposition to the odious increases eventually led the state legislature to pass legislation extending the calculation period and effectively slashing future capital rent increases significantly.

“I remember we once planned a meeting with Division of Housing and Community Renewal that Al chaired, where we challenged the agency to look more carefully at the (MCI) applications and only approve them if they were legitimate,” Groark recalled.

Although they have been significantly mitigated, the MCI charges still exist to burden tenants, Groark said.

“If Al was alive today he would say there is a need for serious MCI reform,” she added.

KHNIA president Elizabeth Thompson said Chapman’s work was vital to the organization’s work on behalf of residents for many years, and upon his death, members petitioned Cabrera to name a street in his honor.

“We felt he needed to be honored. He was very good with housing,” she said. Tenants don’t know their rights, and a lot of them are scared to say anything against the landlord. We still need more education in that area.”

Thompson said the association is looking for more members to help keep the area moving in the right direction.

Area residents looking to get involved are asked to call (718) 618-7550 or email to

Reach Reporter Arthur Cusano at (718) 742–4584. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @arthurcusano.

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