News from Britain and the Bronx

In Britain operations began this month on their third community court, to be based in Nottingham (after Salford and Liverpool). You can read about it here, on the BBC website. This article: "How the Young Poor Measure Poverty in Britain: Drink, Drugs and Their Time in Jail" which appeared a few months ago in the NYT, is worth the read.

Back in the Bronx our neighbors and valued partners the Bronx School of Law Government and Justice have just been crowned as the mock trial state champions. Their team beat out some of the New York City's most elite high schools to become the city-wide champions, and they've just returned from Albany where they won the state finals! You can read about it in the Daily News.

Finally, where did hip-hop start? Most people say it started in the Bronx. According to the New York Times, legendary pioneer Clive Cambell (a.k.a. DJ Kool Herc), wants to get a little more specific. He says that the parties he threw starting back in 1973 at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, in the community room in the basement of this apartment building near the Cross-Bronx Expressway, were the very beginning. The enormous energy of hip-hop would soon be unleashed on the entire globe and define popular culture for decades. Does it all go back to this building? And what does that have to do with gentrification and affordable housing in 2007? More below.

The people living in the building now are hoping that its history might merit inclusion of the building on the National Register of Historic Places. Like other low and moderate income New Yorkers, they're worried that gentrification and rising rents will force them out of the neighborhoods and the buildings where they've been living for years. It's a novel strategy: landmark status is usually reserved for structures that are at least 50 years old (it isn't), and it usually just protects the facade and structure, not the use of the inside space. Residents say the building has unique and extraordinary significance that should receive special protection that would maintain it as affordable housing. I hope hip-hop historians and legal scholars are both enjoying this debate.

Update 03/07/2008: Residents won. They'll keep the building, and it will stay affordable. Article.


Update: Community Justice Center operations are now operating in four cities in Britain