Obama N.Y.C. fundraiser: Is NoMad hipper than Sarah Jessica Parker's place?

President Obama is to attend a fundraiser Monday in trendy 'NoMad' district in New York. Quick, where is that? Even New Yorkers aren't sure.

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    President Obama greets invited guests on the tarmac after arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Monday, July 30, in New York.
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New York City is chock-a-block full of neighborhoods recognizable by people far outside the city: There's SoHo and "the Village," Hell's Kitchen and, of course, Wall Street. Now, President Obama arrives for a Big Apple fundraiser in NoMad.

NoMad, you ask? Is that a real place?

Even some New Yorkers scratch their heads.

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“NoMad – they call it that?” asks the bartender at the Ace Hotel, which many credit with giving some cachet to a neighborhood north of Madison Square that until recently was a no-name district of wholesale shops for jewelry, perfume, luggage, and T-shirts. The hotel is filled with well-dressed young people, working (mostly on Macbook laptops) and, later in the day, having drinks.

“I’d say we’re in Flatiron, or Midtown,” says a hostess at the Ace. “But yeah, some people say NoMad. I think that’s a real estate thing though.”

Manhattan has few places without a defined name, identity, and history. But the president’s stop at the NoMad Hotel Monday evening, which should net him about $2.4 million (with 60 guests paying $40,000 a head), appears to have landed him in one of those neighborhoods.

The NoMad Hotel at 28th and Broadway, named for its location north of Madison Square Park, opened earlier this year. It may well be the hippest spot so far for a presidential shindig – and one that helps to give an identity to a part of the borough that most people view as a blank.

“Until about five years ago it was sort of a grey area on the map, because it hadn’t had a kind of identity of its own,” says Richard Falk, communications director for Kew Management, a company that owns and operates buildings in the area. The area – south of Midtown, north of Union Square, east of Chelsea – was first referred to as NoMad in 1999, but the name has started to stick during the past year or two, as more hotels and restaurants have moved into the neighborhood, says Mr. Falk.

In the early 20th century, many families had lived in the area, attracted by proximity to the park, but most had moved on by the mid-1900s. 

The district's latest incarnation began when real estate developer Andrew Zobler opened the Ace Hotel in 2009. Then, in 2010, Mario Batali’s Eataly –essentially an amusement park of Italian food – opened across from Madison Square Park, pulling in visitors from all over the city. This year, the NoMad Hotel joined the bunch. It features a restaurant run by chef Daniel Humm and restaurateur Will Guidara, who also run the three-Michelan-starred restaurant Eleven Madison Park, winner of the 2011 James Beard award for “outstanding restaurant in America.” 

As for the coining of the name NoMad, it follows the trend of many neighborhoods. When it's time to rebrand the area, trendy acronyms have become the way to go, all over the country.

In New York, it started with Soho in 1963. That was followed up by Tribeca, Nolita, and others. Realtors copied the trend in a bid to make areas seem more appealing to buyers: Some agencies list homes in Spanish Harlem as Spaha.

But will NoMad stick?

A New York Magazine story in 2010 asked whether a neighborhood could be created by giving it a trendy acronym, especially if there were no community in place to support it.

“As of now, NoMad is defined, appropriately, by its nonresidents; specifically, its hotels,” wrote author Adam Sternbergh.

Sounds about right.

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