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“It Took Us 50 Fucking Years”: A Review of Rabble Rousers

PROGRESSIVE CITY,  Samuel Stein, March 21, 2023

A good amount of people know that this happened; far fewer know how it happened. The new documentary film Rabble Rousers: Frances Goldin and the Fight for Cooper Square, which opens March 24th at the Firehouse Theater in Manhattan’s Chinatown, aims to change that.

If you’ve been around housing movements in New York City, or the U.S., or maybe anywhere, you have probably heard about a place called Cooper Square, where the people did the impossible: beat back the real estate speculators and aligned power brokers to take control of piece of their neighborhood, creating permanently affordable social housing while supporting a flourishing arts infrastructure and a slew of small businesses. 

A good amount of people know that this happened; far fewer know how it happened. The new documentary film Rabble Rousers: Frances Goldin and the Fight for Cooper Square, which opens March 24th at the Firehouse Theater in Manhattan’s Chinatown, aims to change that.

Rabble Rousers tells the story of Cooper Square, a 12-block section of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and its legendary lead organizer, Frances Goldin. The film takes viewers from Goldin’s youth in the 1920s to the day in 2012 when the Cooper Square Community Land Trust (CLT) and Mutual Housing Association formally took over the area’s land and buildings. It’s a long and complicated story to tell, and producing this film has been a labor of love from Directors Kelly Anderson, Ryan Joseph, and Kathryn Barnier for over a decade.

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