Naming New York’s neighbourhoods

HARLEM’S Apollo Theatre, where Ella Fitzgerald first sang, and the Hotel Theresa, which counted among its guests Josephine Baker, Muhammad Ali and Fidel Castro, are landmarks. Malcolm X, who called Harlem “Seventh Heaven”, preached on the corner of 116th Street. Stretching further back, in the 1920s and 1930s the Harlem Renaissance gave rise to an outpouring of literature, art and music. Harlemites are proud of this history, and proportionately upset that estate agents are trying to rebrand the southern part and call it SoHa.

Such rebranding is nothing new: New York was once called Nieuw Amsterdam and before that Mannahatta. Pigtown, in central Brooklyn, is now called Wingate. Gas House District is now Stuyvesant Town. Yellow Hook became Bay Ridge after a yellow-fever outbreak. Bloomingdale became the Upper West Side. Neighbourhoods can be fluid, with vague borders. Some have disappeared. Shapes change: in Brooklyn, Park Slope keeps getting bigger and Flatbush keeps…Continue reading

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