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Rabble Rousers: Frances Goldin and the Fight for Cooper Square cover image

Rabble Rousers: Frances Goldin and the Fight for Cooper Square 2022

Highly Recommended

Distributed by New Day Films, 350 North Water Street Unit 1-12, Newburgh, NY 12550; 888-367-9154
Produced by Kelly Anderson, Kathryn Barnier, and Ryan Joseph
Directed by Kelly Anderson, Kathryn Barnier, and Ryan Joseph
Streaming, 83 mins

High School - General Adult
Activism; Communication; Social Movements; Urban and Regional Planning

Date Entered: 09/08/2023

Reviewed by Kimberly Poppiti, St. Joseph's University, Patchogue, NY

Rabble Rousers, using a rich variety of archival images, videos, and documents from a period of over fifty years, along with additional later footage, effectively details the fascinating story behind the decades-long battle to create the first Community Land Trust in New York City. This struggle pitted a group of residents from the Cooper Square neighborhood on the Lower East Side of Manhattan against foes including Robert Moses, other members of the real-estate industry, and a series of five New York City mayors, to protect their neighborhood from Moses’ proposed Lower Manhattan Expressway and other aspects of planned urban renewal. Led by Frances Goldin, a literary agent, mother, and community activist, the residents organized and eventually won the right to control their land. The journey to achieving that goal is the subject matter of this film.

Based on original research by David Powell and Ryan Joseph, Rabble Rousers makes excellent use of historical material in documenting the struggle of the Cooper Square residents and those who fought along with them. The included images effectively underpin the overall documentation of the events depicted. Within this framework, much of the filmmakers’ focus throughout the documentary is on Goldin, who features as a representative protagonist and narrator for the unfolding story. While this takes viewers on some short tangents into Goldin’s personal life; overall, it enables a complex story to be told more clearly and manageably than it otherwise might have been. It also aids the effective depiction of Goldin’s centrality to the events documented. The filmmakers also include a pleasing musical score and historical footage of other key figures, including members of the Cooper Square Committee, politicians, and real estate industry professionals. Present-day experts also weigh in and provide insight into the complex and enduring struggle residents waged to ultimately gain control. Viewers are likely to come away with a good understanding of the key issues and players in the struggle, including the ethnically, politically, and professionally diverse residents of Cooper Square, who are aptly described in the film as “a very vibrant community.”

Rabble Rousers is suitable for viewers at the high school level and up. While its running time (83 minutes) may make it challenging to show in its entirety within some classroom settings, it is worthwhile viewing. This documentary is likely to be of greatest to those in the fields of Activism, Communication, Social Movements, and Urban & Regional Planning. It also has the potential to interest and edify any viewer with an interest in the history and development of New York City, as well as those looking to learn about community activism or urban policy. An informative website provides additional information for interested viewers.

Published and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Anyone can use these reviews, so long as they comply with the terms of the license.