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Belancey


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I realize happyrobot readers are far and wide, and don't necessarily care for the esoteric--and often confusing--practice of naming (and renaming) New York City neighborhoods. Yet it amuses me: the flux, the frenzy, the real-estate speculation and revampification, plus many other 'fications. How huge swaths of land formerly classified under a large umbrella name like Gowanus (in Brooklyn) can now be many and sundry Something Hills and 'Gardens and 'Slopes. Or any name with unwanted associations is changed to Clinton-something or something-Clinton.

Mrs. FTR and I live in a discreet Lower East Side neighborhood. It's unique unto itself, differing from the swankily morphing blocks to the near north as well as the hidden but shining area to the west that bleeds into Chinatown. We live practically under the Williamsburg bridge, south of Delancey. A few years ago, when our price-capped co-ops went market rate, a real estate office opened and coined the neighborhood "LoHo," apparently, short for Lower Houston. It seems a perfectly nice real estate company, and they can call themselves whatever they like, but this new name made no sense to me. We are east of Soho, true, which is short for South of Houston. But before Loho, there was Noho and Nolita, Soha, etc. Everyone is tired of the So's and the Ho's. Nolita, people made fun of, but the name's stuck because it makes sense--north of Little Italy. Anyway, my point here is it's confusing enough already, more so if the identifier lacks logic. TriBeCa (Triangle Below Canal) and Dumbo (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), in my opinion, are the coolest neighborhood names. They actually mean something, have no imitators that I'm aware of, plus sound fetching. Perhaps aware of the problems with Loho (which I've never once heard used as a signifier) someone came up with BelDel, for Below Delancey. (This may have been Lockhart Steele, a LES weblog writer, at least, that was where I first encountered it.) The idea is right. Our neighborhood should be distinguishable, since it's separated by the sprawl of Delancey street and the span of the Williamsburg bridge, which, among other things, gives it its own flavor, however it may taste. Yet, of course, the neighborhood has dramatically changed in my tenure, and is deserving of its own name.

For the uninitiated, Delancey is one of the many wide cross-town (east-west) streets that divide our long and narrow little island into identifiable parcels. North of Delancey, we have Houston street, which now separates Greenwich Village--together with its younger, slightly angry, tattoed but graying, sibling, the East Village--to the north from the many downtown neighborhoods below, with their crazily-named, zig-zagging, numberless streets. Fourteen blocks North of Houston, we have 14th Street, which keeps Chelsea in the west and Gramercy in the east from the Villages. There are many others: Canal street, 23rd, 34th, 57th, and so on. To complicate things more, north-south Avenues--including meandering, snaky Broadway--also divide certain neighborhoods as well--sometimes more in practice than theory.

Of all these cross-town streets, Delancey may be the least attractive. Perhaps because of the traffic racing straight on and off the Williamsburg bridge (other bridges don't provide quite so inviting a raceway). Yet, of all these like streets, Delancey has the coolest name. The others have perfectly good names--Canal, Houston, etc.--but Delancey seems bolder, nobler, and yes, fancy. So for my neighborhood, my home, I offer this new name, "Belancey." Of course, meaning Below Delancey. I also like the shortened version, "Bancy." Use either one. Tell your local leaders and real estate mavens, trend spotters and LES weblog writers. Belancey, or Bancy, whichever.

Full disclosure: my last attempt at naming my neighborhood, "Subhattan," didn't fly. But Bancy, or Belancey, is better.

Postscript: Mrs. FTR also likes "Duwbo," which she came up with, (pronounced DooBo). She likes the name and neighborhood Dumbo, and therefore, does not mind the association. She suggested people should vote for their favorite.

Yours,

John Ball
Bancy, NYC
Dec 2004


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post #43
bio: john ball
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12/13/2004
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