Harlem Residents Fuming Over Push to Rename the Area

It's one of the most well-known neighborhoods in the world, but now some developers and real estate agents want to call Harlem something else. Area residents are outraged. Manhattan Borough Reporter Michael Scotto has the story.

Of all the neighborhood names in America, few are as rich historically, socially, and culturally as Harlem.

But now some realtors and store owners are rebranding the area from 110th to 125th Streets as SoHa, short for South Harlem, in an effort to evoke the trendiness of SoHo.

"No real estate company, no coffee shop, no business should be using the term SoHa to refer to Harlem," said Danni Tyson, a Community Board 10 member.

Community leaders blasted the renaming at a news conference Wednesday, calling it insulting to longtime residents and another sign of gentrification run amok.

They say changing the name bulldozes Harlem's history as the capital of black America.

And they fear it will lead to more high-end development, pushing black residents out and bringing in wealthy white condo owners.

"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.

The name SoHa appeared in a New York Times story 18 years ago about the first signs of gentrification, but its use has mushroomed in recent years.

Harlem is hardly the first neighborhood to be rebranded; think NoHo, Nolita, and NoMad, not to mention SoHo. They are names that emerged as money started pouring in.

Community leaders are particularly upset with the real estate agency Keller Williams, which has a SoHa team on 115th St. When NY1 stopped by for a comment, employees there refused to talk with us.

On the streets of Harlem, residents have a message for developers who want to rename their neighborhood:

"It's like a slap in the face to me," one woman said.

"We love it and we don't need another name," said another. "Harlem is Harlem all by itself."

Even people who are new to the area think the SoHa brand is a bad idea:

Scotto: What do you want the neighborhood to be called?

Resident: Harlem.

It's a name, residents say, is more powerful than anything a real estate developer can produce.

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