Harlem renaming draws ire
NEW YORK — In Harlem, a furor has broken out over what was supposed to be a simple, catchy acronym: SoHa.
An attempt by some businesses and real estate professionals to re-brand the southern part of the neighborhood as SoHa has been greeted by many residents as an affront to a capital of black culture and history.
They say it smacks of gentrification that has increasingly seen different demographics coming into the area along with rising median rents, which have increased since 2000 from $710 a month to $1,050. That section of Harlem stretches from Central Park to 125th Street and includes such landmarks as the Hotel Theresa, which hosted such figures as Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
“Harlem is a treasure of New York,” said U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat, a Democrat whose congressional district includes the area. “I, along with leaders and constituents of this community, stand united to vigorously oppose the renaming of Harlem in yet another sanctioned gentrification.”
New York City is filled with neighborhood names altered by real estate professionals and developers to create cachet, some of which have stuck more than others. There’s SoHo (for south of Houston Street), Nolita (north of Little Italy), Tribeca (triangle below Canal) and Dumbo (down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass), just to name a few.
Occasional references to SoHa as a neighborhood date back almost 20 years but have picked up steam recently, including on local businesses, such as the real estate agency Keller Williams NYC, which used SoHa for the team of real estate agents focusing on the area.
Keller Williams this past week told The Wall Street
Journal that it had decided to change the team name out of respect and passion for the area’s people, history and culture. It is now listed on its website as “Central Harlem.”