• France's news in English

Paris: The mixed legacy of Bertrand Delanoë

Joshua Melvin · 4 Apr 2014, 17:25

Published: 04 Apr 2014 17:25 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

When Betrand Delanoë walks out of Paris Town Hall at the end of his last day on Friday, he will leave behind a city left drastically altered by what he did while in power.

The 63-year-old Socialist’s focus on green issues, urban renewal and attempt to link the city together through culture have met with rave reviews. He did afterall cruise to an easy re-election in 2008 and his top deputy Anne Hidalgo was just elected the city's first female mayor. 

However, not everyone thinks the city's top leftist leader had the magic touch for every initiative he laid a hand on. In fact, he's a got some fairly angry detractors. 

Here are eight key Delanoë initiatives Parisians love to gush over or love to hate:

Paris Plage: Started with a simple mix of imported sand, live music and activities in 2002 for Parisians trapped in the capital in summer, the idea has since turned into a worldwide phenomenon. While many Parisians can’t wait to sunbathe along the Seine or take a dip in a floating pool, there are plenty of others who’ve made a rule of avoiding the crowds, heat and noise.  

Place de La Republique makeover: A year and a half of work on the neglected public space was intended to revitalize a decaying, once majestic plaza. Many adore the cleaner, livelier space inagurated in June 2013, but others have referred to it as “official vandalism.” Critic Adrian Goetz wrote in French daily Le Figaro the plaza: “resembles the city centre of a second-rate industrial German metropolis: an esplanade with no soul.”

Velib’: The public bike sharing system received a glowing reception in its 2007 debut. Scores of Parisians ready to flee the stuffy Metro and packed buses were thrilled to have another means of transport. But the system has been plagued by rampant theft and vandalism of the bikes. Critics have also pointed out the dangers of turning loose legions of  riders on the car-choked streets of Paris without providing them helmets.

Les Halles renovation: Many Parisians stood up and clapped over the announcement the dumpy Les Halles area, now known for drug dealing and fast food shops, would be remade. A massive seashell-like glass and steel canopy is intended to breathe new life into the area when it finished in 2016. But the project has also been criticized as ill-conceived and as likely to be failure as the 1970s urban renewal project that left the area scarred and ugly.

Pedestrianise Les Berges: Delanoe made plenty of Parisians ecstatic when he banned traffic on a stretch of roads that follow the River Seine in the heart of the city. By turning the roadways over to pedestrians it was like Paris-Plages year round. Only hiccup was the irate reaction from the thousands of drivers who used to rely on the roads to get in and out of an already car-unfriendly town.

La Nuit Blanche: The idea of an all night arts festival had been around since the late 1980s, but when Delanoë introduced it to Paris in 2002 it was an instant hit. Scores of Parisians and visitors love crawling through the city for a night discovering strange and wonderful creations in the street. But an all night party has its dangers as Delanoe knows well. He was stabbed by a mentally unstable man during the inaugural event, but fully recovered.

Autolib’: The Velib’ drew such a loyal following, Delanoë followed up with a network of short-term rental electric cars in 2011. Again many Parisians rejoiced at the ability to escape the Metro, but again not everyone was happy. In addition to dirty or vandalized cars, a fire sparked by the charging of one of the vehicles raised safety questions. The program’s operators Bolloré Group later claimed vandalism cause the malfunction.

Story continues below…

The Samaritaine project: The formerly grand department store near the River Seine has sat unused since 2005, when it was shuttered for apparent safety upgrades. Delanoë has backed a plan to transform the building into a mixed use development, but historical preservationists have bitterly opposed changes to the late 18th and early 19th century behemouth. The projects remains at a standstill.

What do you think about Delanoë's legacy in Paris? 

Joshua Melvin (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France to clear 'Jungle' migrant camp Monday
Migrants will be bussed from the camp to some 300 temporary accommodation centres around France. Photo: Denis Charlet/ AFP

The "Jungle" migrant camp on France's northern coast will be cleared of its residents on Monday before being demolished, authorities said Friday.

How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

London calling for Calais youths, but only a chosen few
Photo: AFP

Dozens of Calais minors are still hanging their hopes on help from the UK, but not all will be so lucky.

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

France to allow Baby Jesus in Town Halls this Christmas
Photo: AFP

Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus are safe to go on display again this year, it seems.

National Front posts locations of migrants in French town
The National Front courts controversy. Photo: AFP

"Local tax payers have a right to know," says local far-right party chief.

Paris thieves use tear gas to steal €500,000 of watches
Photo: AFP

The thieves pretended to be couriers then threatened staff with tear gas to get the watches.

Bataclan survivor recounts attack in chilling drawings
Photo: BFMTV screengrab

One survivor has recounted the horrific night through illustrations.

Anger among French police grows as Hollande vows talks
French police demonstrate on the Champs Elysées. Photo: AFP

A fourth night of protests shows government efforts to ease anger among French police have been fruitless.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available