To emerge from its toxic fug, Paris is enacting what could be the most drastic anti-pollution measures seen in any major world city.
Paris used to be the de facto city to emulate, but now, the not-so-humble borough of Brooklyn is king, with each enclave with artisan shops and fixed-gear bikes eager to claim the title of ‘the new Brooklyn.’
For more than a century, cities around the world have compared themselves to Paris. Many claim to be the Paris of the East: Bucharest, Prague, Istanbul, Beirut and Shanghai to name a few. There’s also the Paris of North America (Montreal), the Paris of South America (Buenos Aires) and the Paris of the Plains — Kansas City in the Jazz Age.
But now the wannabe city is Brooklyn. Every neighborhood with a critical mass of bearded hipsters, bike shops and vegan cafes calls itself “the new Brooklyn.” Ballard is the Brooklyn of Seattle. Glasgow and Melbourne both claim Brooklyn cool.
There’s even a Brooklyn of Paris: the once-gritty suburb of Pantin. Its derelict, graffiti-covered warehouses have been taken over by galleries and artists, turning it into the hippest place in the City of Light. Just like in Brooklyn, real estate prices have shot up, and old industrial buildings now house luxury lofts.
Other signs of what’s called the “Brooklynization of Paris” include gluten-free restaurants and juice bars popping up. “It used to be when young chefs studied under the great chefs, they wanted to open important restaurants or go to the countryside and get their Michelin star.
Meanwhile, Brooklyn’s emergence as a global symbol of all things trendy marks quite a turnaround for a place once mocked as Manhattan’s less sophisticated neighbor — even if the new Brooklyn has new problems, like young professionals and affluent families pushing out the poor and working-class folks who populated Brooklyn for decades.
“There is no question that Brooklyn now serves as an example for other urban centers of how a community can transform itself into a hotbed of style.”
“It’s not like I’m introducing a new product, it’s just a new way to have it. I think I’m the right person to bring traditional BBQ to France. I was born in Paris but have worked in the States. I love New York and Texas and I think I understand both cultures. At the same time, Paris has really been opening up. We’re ready now.”
Two New York architects enamored with Parisian flats convinced Rutherford Stuyvesant to build New York’s first apartment building in the late 1860s.
For many Parisians, “trendy” is synonymous with New York, especially Brooklyn, especially Williamsburg, which they treat as both a geographical area (which it is) and a Wes-Anderson-meets-Woody-Allen fever dream (which ignores the long history of the borough as a home to working-class people and minorities, but hey, whatever). Brooklyn, for them, can be reduced to a specific style that’s little more that a string of signifiers—just like how in Americans’ heads, “Paris” means a guy in a beret and a striped shirt riding a bicycle with a basket of baguettes in the front.