Harlem is one of the most renowned neighborhoods on the globe, but there’s a growing push from Realtors and developers to change the name to something different. Local residents are in an uproar over the idea and are voicing their opinions and preference to hold onto their history.
The U.S. has lots of famous neighborhoods, but not many have such a distinct and vibrant background as Harlem, which is known for its flavorful history and culture. But there’s a wave of real estate agents and shop owners who want to change the name of the stretch between 110th and 125th Streets to SoHa which is an abbreviation for South Harlem. The idea is to follow in the footsteps of the popular SoHo.
Locals aren’t happy with the thinking. Community Board 10 member, Danni Tyson, had this remark, “No real estate company…should be using the term SoHa to refer to Harlem.” The current attempt to recreate the area through a change in name has received a lot of backlash from community leaders, who believe the trend to be a major insult because it takes away from Harlem’s history of being the capital of black America.
The leaders believe that adopting the new name will drive high-end development that attracts rich white people and pushes black residents away. Brian Benjamin, who is the State Senator-Elect, exclaimed, “How dare someone try to rob our culture…and create a new name, a new reality as if the clock started when other people showed up.”
The first appearance of the moniker SoHa was nearly two decades ago in a story that was published in the New York Times. The article discussed the first signs of gentrification, but more recently, usage of SoHa has been gaining popularity.
Nevertheless, Harlem isn’t a groundbreaker when it comes to reinventing neighborhoods with fresh names. SoHo, NoHo and Nolita are all names that cropped up when money was flooding in.
Real estate company Keller Williams is taking the brunt of backlash from community leaders due to the fact that it has in place a SoHa Team right on 115th Street. Staff members there were mum when asked for their input.
Residents in Harlem are passionate about their resistance to changing the neighborhood’s name. One said it’s like a slap in the face, while another asserted that “Harlem is Harlem all by itself…we don’t need another name.”
Along with long-time residents of the area, newbies are taking the side of no name change. They believe that Harlem’s name stands as is and can’t be improved upon by developers.