Volume 19 Issue 39 | February 9 -15, 2007

LoHo is deleted in acrimonious acronym ’Net battle

By Kristin Edwards

Does LoHo exist? Not according to Wikipedia.

An entry for “LoHo” posted on the popular online encyclopedia was deleted in late January following a series of debates on whether or not the posting met Wikipedia’s guidelines.

LoHo is an acronym for Lower Houston and its boosters say it signifies a specific neighborhood within the larger Lower East Side. However, opponents of LoHo’s being listed on Wikipedia argued that LoHo is not a distinct neighborhood; rather, that it is just a new, fancy name for the Lower East Side.

Juda Engelmayer, who posted the LoHo listing on Wikipedia, explained that LoHo is not all of the Lower East Side, but an area stretching from Houston St. to Chrystie St. and South St. to the East River.

“The Lower East Side is the old neighborhood,” Engelmayer said. The new name, he said, comes as a result of “new generations moving in.”

Engelmayer lives in the area and runs Kossar’s Bialys on Grand St.

Wikipedia is a free Internet encyclopedia that allows registered users to create and edit entries on the Web site. Engelmayer is a frequent user of Wikipedia and has created and edited other entry pages on it in the past.

A posting on Wikipedia states that entries must be researched, verifiable and unbiased. Users in favor of the LoHo entry being removed argued that the term “LoHo” was not an official name, and was not even its own area.

Some criticized the new acronym as merely being a marketing ploy. The popularizing of the name has been connected with LoHo Reality, a real estate brokerage firm located on Grand St. However, the term appears to have been coined by LoHo Studios, a music recording studio that got its start on Lafayette St. in 1983 and moved to Clinton St. on the Lower East Side in the late 1990s. Jacob Goldman, LoHo Reality’s president, disagrees with those who say that LoHo doesn’t exist.

“There is an area within the Lower East Side that is referred to as LoHo. Some people use it and some people don’t,” Goldman said.

Goldman said he thought it was ridiculous for people to act as though the LoHo name wasn’t in use at all.

“Companies use it in their names…LoHo Studios, etc. Mainstream media such as The New York Times have used the name LoHo. You can say that not a lot of people use it, but it is in use.”

One of the Wikipedia users against the entry argued that Engelmayer’s public-relations firm represented LoHo Reality and claimed that it was thus really LoHo Realty that was behind the LoHo page.

Goldman admits that while Engelmayer’s firm did represent his company, that relationship ended before the Wikipedia LoHo page was even posted.

The page was ultimately deleted from the Web site after it was determined that it did not meet the site’s criteria. A search for “LoHo” will direct users instead to a page about the Lower East Side.

Engelmayer suspects that the Lower East Side Business Improvement District was partially behind the entry’s removal from Wikipedia. Earlier this month, in an article in the New York Observer, he accused Dara Lehon, the BID’s deputy director, of masterminding the posting’s removal.

However, Roberto Ragone, the BID’s director, denies the organization was behind the removal of the Wikipedia entry.

Goldman doesn’t buy it.

“The BID did this,” he said. “They took it all so seriously. The articles [the deactivated LoHo entry] link back to them.”

Ragone said that while he couldn’t speak on behalf of the entire BID, he felt a name change for the area was unnecessary.

“The Lower East Side is the traditional name; we are happy to be called Lower East Side,” he said.

Ragone said that many areas, such as Soho and Noho, have adopted catchy acronyms to seem fancier in hopes of attracting visitors.

“We don’t need acronyms to attract visitors,” he maintained.

“If someone wants to call it LoHo, they are free to do so, but Lower East Side captures the history,” Ragone said. “I’m not looking to get in a competition with Juda about this. I’ve never even met him.”

Goldman isn’t too worried about the online war affecting his business.

“I’m not losing sleep over this Wikipedia thing,” he said. “Why do people spend so much time online posting? They need to get a life.”

Susan Stetzer, Community Board 3’s district manager, said that while the matter of LoHo name’s validity and right to exist has never come before the board as an issue, she has “never heard anyone on the board use ‘LoHo’; it’s always ‘the Lower East Side.’” Stetzer said people are proud of the traditional name.

Others in the area remain partial to “Lower East Side,” and are resistant to the change. Heshey Jacob, manager of two of the major Grand St. co-op complexes, is a proud resident of the Lower East Side.

“I’m as native as they come,” Jacob said. “You can call it whatever you want, but it’s the Lower East Side. It’s the mother of all the neighborhoods as far as I’m concerned.”

Local merchants voiced a similar opinion.

Michael Wong, manager of Tea Gallery on Allen St., said, “I always tell people I work in the Lower East Side.” He said he wasn’t familiar with the term “LoHo.”

Frank Arroyo, manager of Frank’s Bike Shop on Grand St., has heard the term “LoHo,” since he works near LoHo Reality’s office, but said, “I myself say Lower East Side.

“It’s been the Lower East Side since day one when the immigrants came here.”

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