Bryan Coll: Montmartre resisting city plans to replace old cobblestones in pursuit of the goal of Greening Paris

Roundup: Talking About History

Auguste Renoir painted them, Edith Piaf sang about them and, most recently, Am?lie did her shopping on them. But icon of Paris though the centuries-old cobblestones of Montmartre may be, they are being removed as part of a council project aimed at turn this historic quarter of Paris into the city's largest "Green Village." To make way for wider sidewalks, cycle lanes and new scooter parks, diggers have torn up chunks of some of Montmartre's most famous thoroughfares, unsentimentally replacing them with uniform layers of tarmac.

"The Green Village is an essential project that will reduce pollution and make Montmartre more family-friendly," says Sylvain Garel, a local deputy of the Green Party and president of the Montmartre Council, which is overseeing the project. "There's no question that this project will benefit everyone in the area." Residents of the bustling Rue Lepic, with its recently de-cobbled square, aren't so convinced.

"This project will rip the soul out of Montmartre", says Michel Langlois, a butcher and third-generation Montmartrois who has organized a petition against the Green Village project. "This is another attempt by City Hall to make Paris into one, uniform city. We won't have it."

As well as undergoing a green facelift , Montmartre's streets have been fully pedestrianized on Sundays as part of the 'Paris Breathes' project; a City Hall initiative that has banned cars from some 13 parts of the city at weekends.

But many residents of these neighborhoods question the motives behind such ventures. "These projects are entirely for the bobos", says Michel Langlois, the Montmartre butcher, referring to bourgeois-bohemians ˜ a distinctive breed of middle-class Parisians who, in recent years, have moved to traditionally poorer areas of the city to take advantage of cheaper property. ...

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