Friday, April 15, 2011

Reinventing Hell's Kitchen

"They call it 42nd Street because you're not safe if you spend more than forty seconds on it."

The brilliant name Hell's Kitchen provides a not-so-subtle nod to the area's unsavoury reputation. Apparently back in the day some people (the kind that property developers want to attract, anyway) found the moniker rather off-putting. So in the 60s it was rebranded as Clinton. Clinton: makes one think of wedding cake buildings, the sax, and cherry blossom. Or is that just me? Anyway, it sounds way more salubrious than Hell's Kitchen.

And yet there's something about the gritty ring of Hell's Kitchen that is strangely more appealing. The name has stuck and I suspect will stick forever. No-one really calls it Clinton. Except perhaps to say 'That neighbourhood they're calling Clinton... you know, Hell's Kitchen.'

Which makes me wonder what bureaucratic hoops had to be jumped to have the non-existent neighbourhood of Clinton feature this prominently on the NY map:

Clinton - up there with Times Square and Central Park as an iconic NY destination.
The latest in real estate rebranding in Manhattan is MiMA. As in 'the Middle of Manhattan'. It's actually kind of a genius name, and the branding is pretty smart too. It almost fooled me.

 Till TLOML and I looked into an apartment there. Anyone who can read a map knows that MiMA is actually 'that noisy dirty part of Hell's Kitchen where the Port Authority is'.
Having lived in an area of London which estate agents called Highgate Slopes I will not be fooled. Far from being on the fringe of leafy green historic Highgate village, it was actually the heart of dirty, cheap Archway. And I was never convinced by the large posters in Holborn declaring it 'London's Midtown'. Given that London has neither an uptown, nor a downtown, that was never going to work.

What I want to know is... who on earth does fall for this shtick?

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