Real estate agents in New York realised decades ago they could turn a district of leaden property into a golden, aspirational zone with the careful addition of an acronym.
After the area south of Houston Street in Manhattan became SoHo there was NoHo, north of the same thoroughfare, TriBeCa, the “triangle below Canal Street”, and Nolita, the northern segment of Little Italy.
All flourished, as did Dumbo, which was Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass – the word overpass added, according to comedian Jerry Seinfeld, because no one wanted to live in an area that was “dumb”.
Now real estate agents in a more northerly neighbourhood have begun trumpeting another up-and-coming district: NoMa. It is a wondrous neighbourhood to be filled with young, aspirational couples; a place “north of Manhattan” – and known to the rest of the world as the Bronx.
“North of Manhattan is not about trends, it’s about values,” reads an advertisement for a new development, featuring a young woman jogging in a sports bra. The development is in Riverdale, a prosperous northwest strip on the Hudson River. It is still in the Bronx, however – a borough better known to outsiders for the long-gone arson, anarchy and violence of the 1970s and 1980s.
Some remembered how in 1977 the baseball commentator Howard Cosell broke off his coverage of the World Series to say: “Ladies and gentleman, the Bronx is burning.”
Real estate agents have since renamed the South Bronx “SoBro”. They argue that “NoMa” will further this revitalisation.
Many Riverdale residents have been outraged to see their suburb rebranded. In the New York borough of Brooklyn, a state politician has even sought to halt the citywide rebranding altogether, with a bill that would penalise estate agents for creating acronyms: the Neighbourhood Integrity Act — or NIA, as no one dares call it.