Sedgwick avenue in the Morris Heights section of the Bronx has been officially co-named Hip Hop Blvd!
Now history can never erase the origins of Hip Hop Culture from its birthplace New York City or the people that made the street naming a reality. The group known as the Hip Hop Blvd 5 has carved out their rightful place in New York City Hip Hop history.
(L-R) Al Pizarro, Terry Nelson, DJ Tony Tone Cold Crush, Alexander Pizarro, Jacob MorrisThe official proclamations issued by the Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz jr. were presented on the Bronx Supreme Courthouse steps on August 12th 2017, two months after the controversial celebration presented by City Council person, Vanessa Gibson of the 16th Council District. Her celebration in June did not include the team of 5 that were behind the actual street naming.
The Hip Hop Blvd 5 have their suspicions on why Gibson did not extend them an invitation. But in their minds, after 10 years of hard work, they still find it inexcusable.
The process of street co-naming Sedgwick Avenue began in 2008, when Terry Nelson the former acting District Manager of Community Board 10 in central Harlem and the Co-Director of the Hip Hop Culture Center in Harlem, launched the street co-naming initiative after hosting the second of two Kool Herc birthday celebrations for his sister, Cindy.
The annual event commemorates the birth of Hip Hop back in August 1973 in the rec room of 1520 Sedgwick Avenue where Herc performed the breakbeat sample technique using two turntables to extend the sweet spot of the record. The breakbeat is considered a cornerstone of Hip Hop music and culture which includes breakbeats, breakdancers and the music samples used for rap recordings.
Though the process of street co-naming took 10 years to complete with many roadblocks presented by Gibson and others, there still would be no celebration for the Hip Hop Blvd 5 as they were not invited to the June event held in front of the building.
Blindsided by the same person who had blocked the Bronx Community Board 5 from voting on the street naming for political reasons. Rumor has it that she wanted to name the street after her mentor. There has been no comment so far from her office.
But with Hip Hop music and cultural growing in the last 40 years into the most dominant entertainment platform on the planet, the Council person’s calculations seemed misguided at best, selfish and petty at worst.
Not until local community leaders, including Gloria Robinson, president of the Sedgwick tenants’ association threw their support behind the street naming at a packed public hearing did Vanessa Gibson finally acquiesce. But it certainly did not stop Gibson from taking credit after it passed unanimously at the City Council and was signed by Mayor Bill De Blasio in 2016. In fact, it was not until the legendary rapper Kurtis Blow got wind, did he and the Bronx Borough President, Ruben Diaz, Jr. step in to take corrective action and issue the official street co-naming proclamations to the Hip Hop Blvd 5.
In the end, the Hip Hop Blvd. 5 thanked Kurtis Blow and Ruben Diaz jr. for stepping in to set the record straight.
“I’ve got gold and platinum plaques from the industry as a hip hop record promoter. We just want to know why we were not included by these people,” said Al Pizarro, a lifelong Bronx resident, whose son, Alexander Pizarro, stood outside 1520 Sedgwick for two straight days gathering the required 200 local signatures to be included on Community Board 5’s street co-naming agenda.
“We finally did it!” said, Terry Nelson, “We finally made the street co-naming of Sedgwick Avenue and Hip Hop Blvd a reality.”
It took ten years to win this battle, so it might take a little more time to decide where the Hip Hop Blvd 5 goes next. But when they do, it promises to be epic.