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Harlem residents outraged by attempt to rename neighborhood

Apartment listings start calling Harlem 'SoHa'

Birds fly over buildings in the Harlem neighborhood on March 4, 2010, in New York City.

Real estate listings for apartments between 110th and 125th streets in New York City have started referring to the area as SoHa. Most everyone else calls the neighborhood Harlem.

Companies' attempt to rename the neighborhood has outraged residents, Reuters reported. Harlem is a historically black enclave where many prominent figures in black culture and history have lived, including activists Malcolm X and W.E.B. Du Bois, poet Langston Hughes and singers Harry Belafonte and Ella Fitzgerald.

Renaming a neighborhood isn't a new real estate tactic. Areas in the South Bronx have been called the Piano District in reference to its former instrument manufacturing base, Reuters reported. Washington, D.C., real estate firms call the Shaw neighborhood, located around historically black Howard University, as North End of Shaw.

To protect the Harlem name, U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat vowed to introduce resolution in the House, Reuters reported.

He wrote on Twitter on Monday: "#WeRHarlem! And we refuse to be called by any other name! #NY13 #HarlemStrong." He posted it along with a photo of the Apollo Theater, where a 17-year-old Fitzgerald made her debut in 1934.

Real Estate Board of New York spokesperson Jamie McShane said the group supports state regulations that prohibit brokers from using "a name to describe an area that would be misleading to the public," Reuters reported.

Espaillat said he would introduce a resolution this week to limit the ability "to change the name of a neighborhood based on economic gain."

"I along with leaders and constituents of this community stand united to vigorously oppose the renaming Harlem in yet another sanctioned gentrification," he said in an email to Reuters. "This is an incredibly insulting attempt to disown Harlem's longtime residents, legacy, and culture."