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Harlem Name Change Ignites Furor

Harlem

SoHa Uproar
June 1, 2017

You can blame this latest dustup on SoHo. Then again, you could blame it on NoHo. Or NoLiTa, or NoMad, or TriBeCa, or DoBro, or Dumbo – or any of the dozens of other neighborhood-name train wrecks that New York City real estate brokers and developers have concocted as a way to brand pockets of the city and line their own pockets.

Which brings us to SoHa – the moniker some brokers and business owners have begun using for the swath of Manhattan between 110th and 125th Streets, short for South Harlem. The Keller Williams real estate agency has a “SoHa team” at its 115th Street office, replete with Facebook page. Some people are less than thrilled.

"How dare someone try to rob our culture, and try to act as if we were not here, and create a new name, a new reality as if the clock started when other people showed up?" state senator-elect Brian Benjamin said at a news conference last week, as reported by NY1.

Other community leaders blasted the renaming of one of America’s most storied neighborhoods, saying it’s insulting to longtime residents and yet another sign of gentrification run amok, which in recent years has pushed out black residents to make way for white buyers of pricey condos. Among the critics is Danny Tyson, a Community Board 19 member, who said flatly, “No real estate company, no coffee shop, no business should be using the term SoHa to refer to Harlem.”

Yet for all the current commotion, the name SoHa is nothing new under the Harlem sun. Nearly a decade ago, an article in the New York Times mentioned Redeemer Presbyterian Church’s website, which carried this ad in its real-estate section: “Awesome Jesus lovin’ chick in SoHa looking for a roomie.”

"[SoHa) is like a slap in the face to me," one Harlem resident told NY1. "We love it and we don't need another name," said another. "Harlem is Harlem all by itself."

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