Soha: A War Over Naming Rights
Everybody says ‘Good Morning’ in Harlem because it’s true! And that’s lovely.
– Marcia Gay Harden
After The Dutch overpowered the native Manhattans in 1660, they termed the captured area Nieuw Haarlem. Shortly, however, the British came, took control, and even tried changing it to Lancaster, but the name never stuck.
Nevertheless, the British left their indelible imprint on the New York state itself by naming the most famous city in the world after The Duke of York in 1664, later on, King James II of England. Nonetheless, more than 353 years later, the haze surrounding the neighborhood naming rights is roughly the same e.g. where a community starts and ends?
To capitalize on the growing value of Harlem’s residential, and commercial real estate, a native businessman coined the term SoHa in 2010 to target the southern part of the neighborhood. However, the reality at the time of writing is that the community board is trying to downplay the hype around the trademark to ban real estate brokerages and developers from using SoHa.
As per the Board’s Chair, and aspiring State Senator Brian Benjamin, this nickname deliberately diminishes the area’s rich political, and cultural history. He further clarified that the opposition is not against new economic and investment opportunities for Harlem families, but is against this greedy rebranding of Harlem which will have serious negative connotations in the future. It is disrespectful, and nullifies the blood, tears, and sweat of generations of Harlem residents who made Harlem what it is today!
Historically, The New York Times traced the term SoHa back to a bar with that name which opened on Amsterdam Avenue in 1997. However, the moniker went viral in 2007, when SoHa 118, dubbed by its developers as the face of South Harlem, officially opened for occupation. Specifically, since the turn of the Millennium, this area has witnessed an annual rent rise of nearly 45% which is the second-largest increase in NYC.
Today, despite vociferous opposition from the residents, and the community board, the nickname SoHa is already rooted in the neighborhood. If you live in the South Harlem, you can dine at Max SoHa, or shop at places such as SoHa Style Furniture, and SoHa Square Market. All of this shows evidently that new neighborhood names have a way to grow all on their own.
Source: Sebastian Capital