As best as one could tell, the most famous Frenchman in New York — you may also safely call him the most notorious — was not to be found at Bastille Day celebrations held on Sunday along East 60th Street. We didn’t make it to a similar event held on Smith Street in Brooklyn, where the French population is said to be growing. But we assume he wasn’t there, either.
Clyde Haberman offers his take on the news.
Then again, if Dominique Strauss-Kahn desperately wanted a ham and cheese crepe, or was dying for a merguez sandwich, he didn’t have to go to a street fair. He probably could have ordered one up for delivery to the high-priced town house on Franklin Street, in TriBeCa, where he has tucked himself away while the are sorted out.
Technically, France’s national day is not until Thursday. But one does not cavalierly shut down three blocks of 60th Street during the work week. Hence the Sunday merriment for Bastille Day, sponsored by the French Institute Alliance Française and attended by thousands of people, including some of the 70,000 or so men and women who form the city’s French-American community. By grace of the Strauss-Kahn case, these have not been the most tranquil days for them.
It seems to be the sad fate of Franco-American relations, centuries-old though they are, that whenever a Frenchman is believed to have behaved badly, his actions are viewed by many Americans as evidence of his entire country’s lack of moral fiber. The failings of any American can produce similar reactions along the banks of the Seine.
So some of the French living in New York have detected a certain amount of fallout from the Strauss-Kahn affair — nothing terrible, mind you, just enough to be noticeable.
“There is this kind of small bashing to how the French reacted to the way D.S.K. was treated,” said Guénola Pellen, culture news editor at France-Amérique, a monthly magazine based in New York. (D.S.K. refers, of course, to Mr. Strauss-Kahn. Frankly, until his arrest in May, we would have assumed that the initials meant Donna Karan had taken on a middle name.)
Many in France took it on faith that D.S.K. had been set up and that the Americans had bared their inner barbarity once again by subjecting him to a “perp walk.” That reaction, Ms. Pellen said, touched off a counterreaction here to the effect that “the French are really pretentious and arrogant.”
Let’s not overstate the case. Any whiff of anti-French feelings here is just that: a whiff, nothing more. It wasn’t evident on 60th Street. It is not remotely in the same league as the over-the-top pounding that France took in 2003 for refusing to support America’s war of choice in Iraq — you know, the one that was started to strip Saddam Hussein of all those illicit weapons that he didn’t have.
The French got that one right. But it didn’t prevent them from being denounced in this country as a bunch of “weasels” and “cheese-eating surrender monkeys.” It certainly didn’t keep some restaurants, and even the United States Senate dining room, from replacing French fries with “freedom fries” on their menus.
At least, in the Strauss-Kahn case, no one has proposed that the potatoes be renamed “feminist fries.”
“It’s completely different from what we felt eight years ago during the Iraq war,” said Isabelle Lefebvre-Vary, who is the French institute’s director of development and special events.
Nonetheless, those whiffs are detectable. For weeks, the New York tabloids played on one anti-French stereotype after another — headlines like “Le Perv” and “Frog Legs It” — or relied on puns so lame that they could have been covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act. Those headlines faded after the credibility of Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s accuser came into question.
In any event, the man was not to be seen on Sunday at either the Manhattan or the Brooklyn street fair. Neither, for that matter, was another famous man with a name of decidedly French origin. Nothing unsavory about this fellow, though. Far from it. We’re referring to Derek Jeter, who was busy at his day job in the Bronx.
For more local news from The Times, including details on why subways are more crowded than ever on weekends, Coney Island’s return to normalcy after a crazy Fourth of July weekend and the dismissal of a lawsuit to stop construction of a mosque in Lower Manhattan, see the N.Y./ Region section.
Here’s what City Room is reading in other papers and blogs this morning.
The number of students transferring to City University of New York campuses is up 20 percent. [New York Post]
Two hundred inmates at Rikers Island jail were relocated after a fire broke out in an air-conditioning room Sunday night. [New York Post]
A Hamptons bar claims to sell more beer in a summer afternoon than Yankee stadium. [New York Post]
Data from the United States Department of Transportation shows Megabus has mega safety problems. [New York Post]
Police officers on City Island have been allowing drug deals to pass right under their noses, says a civic leader who had been a policeman. [New York Post]
A Midtown hotel wants the city to move a bus stop so fumes will not interfere with its sidewalk cafe. [New York Post]
The taping of David Letterman’s “Late Show” will go on as planned today after a man broke into the Ed Sullivan Theater Sunday morning and caused at least $2,000 in damage. [Daily News] See also [NYT]
A former PTA treasurer who is accused of embezzling thousands of dollars will face infuriated parents and the judge at her hearing today. [Daily News]
The owner of Lenox Terrace, a Harlem apartment complex home to former Gov. David A. Paterson and Representative Charles Rangel, is trying to persuade tenants to support expansion plans that would be one of the largest residential redevelopments in the city if approved. [Wall Street Journal]
A Staten Island reputed mobster is pleading for sympathy because an F.B.I. raid traumatized his Maltese puppy. “The little dog has not been the same since,” according to court papers. [Daily News]
Crew members found a stun gun on a JetBlue plane at Newark Liberty International Airport on Friday night. [Daily News]
A man tried to cool off in the Central Park Reservoir on Sunday before his recalcitrance caused firefighters to drag him out. [New York Post]
The bedbug scare may have been more fright than bite, but the bedbug-busting business is thriving. [Wall Street Journal]
The famed Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem is reported to fare poorly in its last health inspection. [DNA info]
Cheesemongers in Union Square can once again cut to order without fearing they will be fined. [DNA info]