Critics: New Names for Gentrifying NYC Neighborhoods ‘Almost Like a Klu Klux Klan-Veiled Attack’

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By Jillian Kay Melchior | 9:55 am, June 13, 2017

New York City real-estate agents have been advertising gentrifying neighborhoods under new names, such as “SoHa” for the southernmost part of Harlem—part of an effort to rebrand specific parts of the city as more upscale or trendy.

That marketing move has infuriated the city’s liberal politicians, who claim the new monikers are white-washing the city and erasing the culture of neighborhoods’ longtime residents of color.

Bill Perkins

Bill Perkins, a member of New York City Council, said that calling the blocks between 110th and 125th Street “Soha” was “almost like a Klu Klux Klan-veiled attack on the neighborhood.” He also said it was like “what Columbus did to the Indians.”

And a state representative from Harlem, Brian Benjamin, has introduced legislation that would penalize real-estate firms that reference New York City neighborhoods by names other than those officially designated by the city.

“How dare someone try to rob our culture and try to act as if we were not here and create a new name and a new reality as if the clock started when other people showed up,” Benjamin said at a rally last week.

New York Sen. Brian Benjamin

Under Benjamin’s proposed legislation, New York City would create a new bureaucracy to “develop a process for the proposed renaming of any traditionally recognized neighborhood,” soliciting feedback from its residents before making any changes.

And real-estate brokers who used an unofficial with new, unofficial name would face a fine or have their licenses suspended or revoked.

— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.