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Belonging in Paris


Mayor Pierre Aidenbaum with Pascal Fonquernie and Jean-François Estrade


Last night, residents of the 3rd arrondissement piled into the Salles de Fêtes on the upper level of the beautiful city hall to hear a few poignant words delivered by Mayor Pierre Aidenbaum and toast to the New Year with champagne. The mix was every bit as eclectic as one might see on the streets of the Marais. In fact, I recognized a few of the “SDF” (sans domicile fixe — homeless) shaking hands with the Mayor and mingling with the gallery and shop owners.

Aidenbaum, once president of the LICRA (Ligue Internationale Contre le Racisme et l’Antisémitisme) and member of the Commission Nationale des Droits de l’Homme became Mayor of the 3rd in 1995 by an overwhelming majority vote and continues to bring a spirit of accord and peaceful co-habitation to the district.

In his presentation before the eager audience, he spoke of the projects on the drawing board for the future of the quarter — doubling and improving the quality of the housing for the poor (speaking tenderly about the lives lost in the fire on rue Roi Doré), adding more day care centers, the impending construction of a 4000 square meter and second largest garden in the district (Square du Temple being the largest), opening a new library three times larger than the existing one, the upcoming renovation to the historic iron structure Carreau du Temple (he called “the heart of the quartier”), widening the sidewalks, adding trees while ameliorating the parking and improving the traffic patterns. The theme throughout his speech was improvement of the quality of life for all within a warm, friendly and convivial environment; as a part of this to improve the economic life and to learn to live better together.

After a round of applause, there was a rush to have a glass of champagne, snack on petit fours and shake hands with M. Aidenbaum. I see him frequently on the streets of the arrondissement and he unfailingly stops to say hello and exchange a few words with me. There is no doubt that his intentions to bring “harmony” to the district (a word he used himself), is clear, both in his personal interactions with the residents, but in the programs planned for the future.

Brochures and booklets laid fanned on tables outside the door of the large hall for all to take and within them lies the stories of the people who make a real difference (editor of Zurban, Jean-Christophe Mikhailoff, who settled the offices of the weekly entertainment guide at the corner of rue de Turenne and rue Charlot), a bit of history of some of the district’s most special spots (did you know that the Marché des Enfants Rouges is the oldest covered market in Paris — 1615!?) and a calendar of the upcoming forums, conferences, celebrations and events sponsored by the city hall of the 3rd.

Yesterday in total was an eventful day I’ll never forget. It began in the morning with a meeting with our Notaire and the owner of a studio apartment on rue Charlot who has agreed to sell it to me (synchronistically it has the same address and building letter as my own apartment on rue de Saintonge!). In the afternoon, readers of Parler Paris gathered for “Après Midi” at La Pierre du Marais, where the prop

rietors couldn’t be more welcoming, allowing us full reign over the first floor while we “schmoozed” and drank together.

Over dinner at the end of the day with friends and colleagues Pascal Fonquernie (Parismarais.com) and Anne Vignial (Gallery Anne Vignial on rue Charlot) at Chez Omar where we are regulars, I realized that this is the first time in my life that I’ve felt a real connection with the place in which I live. I’ve lived in New Orleans, New York, Tel Aviv, Knoxville and Los Angeles and not once did a feeling of community stir my soul. I don’t know if it’s because of the open arms of Mayor Pierre Aidenbaum, the ceaselessly fascinating historical depth of the 3rd arrondissement or the city of Paris herself, but for once in my life, I feel I really belong.

A la prochaine…

Adrian LeedsEditor, Parler Paris
Email [email protected]

P.S. Read the report from yesterday’s Parler Paris Après Midi and see photos of our fun gathering at /parlerparis/apresmidi.html …then plan on attending our next on on Tuesday, February 14th — a special heart-felt day!

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