ASTORIA — FiDi. DUMBO. NoLIta.
A neighborhood shop owner has coined a new nickname for the slice of Astoria she calls home as a way to promote business in the lightly trafficked area — and her push is picking up steam.
Natassa Contini, owner of the cafe and pet supply shop Chateau Le Woof on 14th Street and 30th Avenue, started using the name Westoria to refer to the portion of the neighborhood west of 21st Street, between Astoria Park and Broadway. The boundaries closely coincide with the neighborhood more commonly known as "Old Astoria," or "Old Astoria Village."
"It's just something fun that I started doing," explained Contini, who has been using the name in social media posts and even started selling T-shirts emblazoned with the moniker. "I don’t want to take anything away from Old Astoria."
She began hashtaging #Westoria on Chateau Le Woof's Instagram posts, after having played with similar names like "West Astoria" and "Westside." It's a way to draw attention to the stores, restaurants and local landmarks in the area, which has traditionally seen less foot traffic than other parts of Astoria, she explained.
"Even when the store opened, when I was describing where I am, people would go, 'Oh, I don’t go that way,'" Contini said. "No one would cross 21st Street."
Fresco's Cantina, a Mexican restaurant on 31st Avenue near 12th Street, has also featured Westoria on its social media posts, and the local blog We Heart Astoria used it to describe the area in a post about the same restaurant.
One of Contini's employees, who runs an apparel company, starting making Westoria shirts, which Contini sells at Chateau Le Woof for $20.
The shop owner also started an Instagram account, @westoria.life, which she says will be used to highlight local small businesses, events and other happenings.
"[It's] just promoting the awesome things on the west side that we have that not too many people know about," Contini explained.
But the name has elicited some eyerolls, including a recent debate on a Reddit thread entitled "Stop Trying to Make 'Westoria' Happen.'"
"Is this an actual thing? Can it NOT be a thing???" the original poster wrote. "I feel like it's creating unauthentic terms for marketing purposes in order to sell the hype of Astoria as a new trendy neighborhood."
Added another poster: "What do you expect when a bunch of hipsters keep moving in?"
However, some countered that they think neighborhood sub-names like Westoria make sense, considering how big the neighborhood is.
"I don't think it's that unreasonable," one Reddit poster chimed in. "Especially now that there's going to be more development around Hallet's Cove, it feels like everything west of 21st street is going to have it's [sic] own sort of neighborhood."
Attempts at new neighborhood nicknames in other parts of the city have been met with backlash before, generally because they were rooted in real estate interests looking to market a particular area — like brokers latching onto "SoHa" when selling apartments in south Harlem.
But Contini said that's not her intention.
"It's not being corporate and mainstream and taking over," she said, noting she's simply hoping to help promote "the local small businesses that work 16 hours a day."
"It's really just identifying ourselves — coming together," she said.
Richard Khuzami, head of the advocacy group Old Astoria Neighborhood Association, said he hasn't really heard "Westoria" being used, but doesn't mind it.
For years, Old Astoria — the name that's been used to described the area for as long as he can remember — had been somewhat overlooked, with an outside perception of being on "the other side of the tracks."
"The area west of 21st Street was separated from the rest of the community," he said.
That's changing even more now as the neighborhood is getting more attention, especially with the opening of the new ferry dock at Hallets Point, he noted.
"I'm glad that people at least are taking part in where they live, regardless of the name," he said. "That shows that they're proud to be from this area."