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Manhattan’s magic is that within a tiny island, dozens of micro-communities welcome the hoards of people and cultures that make the city unique. 46th Street brings Little Brazil, while Chinatown’s blocks below Canal Street are packed with pulled noodles and dumpling shops, a pocket of East 9th Street is known as Little Tokyo and East Harlem has a growing Little Mexico nook.
“There is not yet an official French neighborhood in NYC and we feel it’s important for France to be represented in NYC’s urban landscape,” say Léa and Marianne Perret, founders of local French language school Coucou and originators of a new petition to Manhattan’s Community Board 2 to officially designate a nook of Nolita as Little Paris.
The lack of a specified space for Francophiles in Manhattan wasn't always the case, however. In the late 19th Century, Soho had its own French Quarter, as chronicled in an 1879 issue of Scribner's Monthly: “The people are nearly all French. French too is the language of the signs over the doors and in the windows.”
Today, over 60,000 French citizens and over 81,000 French speakers live in New York, but have no such hub. Still, a nook of Nolita full of French food, culture and Parisian charm is rife to become Little Paris. “Calling a piece of NYC Little Paris would mean recognizing the French culture that is already represented in our neighborhood. It would allow Francophiles to identify a place in the city where they can find authentic French goods and experience a sense of strong French culture,” they say. “The love between New Yorkers and Parisians is definitely mutual.New Yorkers are extreme francophiles: they love French culture, food, cinema; they associate it with a certain art de vivre, a quality of life that is reflected in art, fashion and gastronomy.”
Ready to dive into the Paris-within-Manhattan? Here are a few French businesses in Little Paris to check out.