For months residents have been posting pictures of dirty or dilapidated urban furniture, abandoned scooters or ramshackle terraces set up by cafes during the pandemic with the hashtag #saccageparis (Trashed Paris), to the dismay of City Hall.
It has put Socialist Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who is weighing a bid for the presidency, on the defensive.
“We’re not doing this in response to saccageparis,” deputy mayor Emmanuel Gregoire said at a press conference. “But when we are called out by our citizens… they deserve to be listened to and respected. The things being said by the Saccage Paris groups are not wrong.”
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The push for a “new aesthetic,” he said, would include repainting historic elements of public space including the ornate iron and wood “Davioud” benches from the Second Empire.
The city will also remove or renovate recent “Mikado” benches – which often resemble haphazard piles of railroad ties – that many Parisians love to hate.
— Catsy18 (@BrenierLaura) July 5, 2021
Some 2,000 “useless” advertising panels will come down, Gregoire said. And he vowed “more discrete and harmonious” painting and barriers for the 60 kilometres (37 miles) of “coronapistes” bike lanes that were quickly carved out during the pandemic.
Most of the lanes currently are marked with plastic yellow poles or hulking concrete construction blocks that have not aged well.
Hidalgo’s rightwing critics and some residents accuse her of allowing the capital to fall into neglect while making trips to other French cities to woo allies for her rumoured presidential run next year.
She has claimed the city is being targeted by a smear campaign, and has promised to double spending on cleaning during her second term as mayor to €1 billion.