Score one for the people of Harlem vs. the city’s gentrification juggernaut. The Keller Williams real estate agency has agreed to drop the term “SoHa Team” at its 115th Street office, bowing to pressure from neighborhood activists who were infuriated by efforts to rename the swath of Harlem south of 125th Street for commercial purposes.
“With respect to the neighborhood and people of Harlem, they will change their team name at Keller Williams NYC,” the company said in a statement, the Amsterdam News reports.
Chanting “SoHa! Hell No!” elected officials, activists and advocates gathered on the corner of West 115th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard last week to call for passage of legislation that would penalize those who use the SoHa name. Standing near the slogan “Harlem Not SoHa” written on the sidewalk in colored chalk, state senator Brian Benjamin, sponsor of the Neighborhood Integrity Act, said, “This bill, if passed, would mandate the city to take action to create a process for doing what we’re asking for, which is to make sure that traditionally recognized neighborhoods’ names are not changed.” The legislation would include the community in the renaming process and create a framework for the city to develop its own process.
“I am proud to live in Harlem,” said Regina Black Middleton, “and I will fight to maintain Harlem’s name and to make sure there’s affordable housing, rental, co-ops, condos and ones for those who are unable to afford what’s being built in our community now.”
New York City Council Member Bill Perkins said it should be up to the people – and not businesses and developers – to decide the neighborhood’s name. “This is Harlem forever, until we decide something else,” said Perkins. He likened the attempt to introduce the SoHa name to “a Ku Klux Klan-styled attack on a neighborhood.”
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