New York’s Francophiles Need a Little Paris!

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Northwest of Italy, as most New Yorkers could point out, is France. In New York, you could say the same: northwest of Little Italy is a hub of French businesses — boutiques, cafes, restaurants. And yet real estate agents have named the area “NOLITA,” or, “North of Little Italy.”

Léa and Marianne Perret, co-founders of Coucou French Classes, an adult language school and community center in the neighborhood, are taking a stand against this misnomer: "north of Little Italy is not 'NOLITA.' It’s Little Paris," say Léa and Marianne.

New York is home to about 60,000 French expats, and over 81,000 French speakers. French people and culture have long played an important role in New York. In fact, in the late 1800s part of what we now call SOHO was a flourishing “quartier français.” According to 1870s press, “the people are nearly all French. French too is the language of the signs over the doors and in the windows.” Today still, New York’s French deserve a home, just like the many communities that get to celebrate their cultural heritage by calling a neighborhood their own. A place whose name reflects its status as a vibrant hub of French food, goods, and culture.

A place like Little Paris.

In the long tradition of French determination to fight for change, Coucou French Classes’ founders have decided to take the lead in the process of making Little Paris a reality. We’re starting by launching this petition to co-name the stretch of Centre Street between Broome and Grand “Little Paris Street.” There’s a historical connection between the French and this small stretch — it was once called Bayard Mount, after the revolutionary-era French-American William Bayard. But the French connection isn’t just historical. Today, in addition to Coucou French Classes, the block is home to Maman, a French café; La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, a French wine bar; and Clic, a French gallery. Even the old police headquarters across the street, an imposing “Beaux Arts” style building, mimics Parisian architecture — the building’s architects studied in France and modeled their project off Paris’ Hôtel de Ville. Coucou students often say that looking out their classroom windows at the building feels like looking out at Paris.

Our ambitions for Little Paris begins with Little Paris Street. We believe that the other French businesses in the neighborhood of Nolita deserve the recognition of the name Little Paris.

But for now, let’s get this block co-named!

Sign the petition and give Francophiles their New York home: Little Paris Street.