[ Frances Goldin was relentless, her enthusiasm infectious. And
her life shows the value of being a long-distance runner. She fought
like hell to defend her community. Frances had been a regular presence
at Zuccotti Park a couple of years earlier... ]
FRANCES WAS GOLDEN: LEGENDARY ACTIVIST AND LITERARY AGENT LEAVES AN
INSPIRING LEGACY [[link removed]]
May 23, 2020
_ Frances Goldin was relentless, her enthusiasm infectious. And her
life shows the value of being a long-distance runner. She fought like
hell to defend her community. Frances had been a regular presence at
Zuccotti Park a couple of years earlier... _
caption Screen shot of Frances Goldin from "It Took Fifty" , caption
Screen shot of Frances Goldin from "It Took Fifty"
Frances Goldin, a legendary Lower East Side activist, trailblazing
leftist literary agent and good friend to _The Indypendent_ died at
home on May 16 following years of gradually declining health. She was
Born June 22, 1920 to Michael Axler, a mechanic and toolmaker for the
MTA, and Sophie (Saslowsky) Axler, a homemaker and former seamstress
who had been fired for union activities, Goldin grew up
[[link removed]] in
Springfield Gardens, Queens. During her childhood, she encountered the
sting of both antisemitism and the class prejudice of her more
She was valedictorian at Andrew Jackson High School. However, her
family expected her to become a conventional Jewish wife and mother
and insisted she learn secretarial skills instead of going to college.
In 1944, she met her husband Morris Goldin at the War Shipping
Administration where they both worked. She moved with him to the Lower
East Side. He was the head of the New York State branch of
the American Labor Party
[[link removed]] and a communist.
She soon became one too. Six years later Goldin ran for state Senate
on an American Labor Party ticket headed by W.E.B. DuBois.
When I interviewed her
[[link removed]] at
her East 11th Street apartment in 2014, she described arriving in her
part of the Lower East Side (now known as the East Village) as
“nirvana.” It was her first taste of freedom, savored amid a
multi-racial, working-class neighborhood with a rebellious history.
She never left.
She also fought like hell to defend her community. In 1959, Robert
[[link removed]] sought
to demolish much of the Lower East Side east of Bowery from East 9th
Street to Delancey Street. He wanted to replace the neighborhood’s
tenement buildings with middle-class housing. Frances sprang into
action and became a founder of the Cooper Square Committee, which led
the fight against Moses’ urban renewal juggernaut. Another
co-founder was Walter Thabit
[[link removed]], a pioneer in
community-based urban planning who would become her longtime partner
after she separated from her husband. She also helped found
the Metropolitan Council on Housing
which today is the oldest and largest tenants rights group in the
Goldin (left) back in the day.
Photo: Courtesy of the Cooper Square Committee. // The Indypendent
Goldin had left the Communist Party by then but would later credit her
experience in the CP for making her such an effective organizer. If
she was a dreamer, she also understood the surest way to move people
to action was to address their basic needs, such as keeping a roof
over one’s head.
“I learned the basics of organizing,” she said in a 2014
[[link removed]] with
the Greenwich Village Historical Preservation Society. “If you
don’t have the troops that are involved in the struggle, you have
Frances Goldin was relentless, her enthusiasm infectious. And her life
shows the value of being a long-distance runner. The Cooper Square
[[link removed]] not
only stymied Moses’ plan but in the following decades built or
preserved more than 850 units of affordable housing and preserved the
East 4th Street cultural district between Bowery and 2nd Avenue, a
center of off-off Broadway theater.
MORE COMMUNITY BATTLES
Goldin was also a leader in thwarting another Moses monstrosity —
the Lower Manhattan Expressway
[[link removed]], or LOMEX, a
10-lane elevated expressway that would have plowed through SoHo,
Little Italy and the Lower East Side. It was approved by the city in
1960 but canceled in 1971, following a decade of fierce community
Frances Golden at a Lower East Side demonstration. Date unknown.
Photo: Courtesy of the Cooper Square Committee // The Indypendent
In 1967, Moses did succeed in leveling a 20-acre swath of tenement
buildings just south of Delancey Street near the Williamsburg Bridge.
Eighteen hundred low-income families, mostly Puerto Rican, were
displaced. The Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA) remained empty
a collection of desolate parking lots. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver
and his base of assimilated, middle-class Jewish supporters in the
Grand Street co-ops didn’t want low-income housing that would bring
in Hispanic and Asian residents who would alter the area’s political
balance of power.
In 2011, a compromise was reached to build a mix of affordable and
market-rate housing on the site, now known as Essex Crossing. The deal
called for 50 percent of the units to be permanently affordable, far
more than what normally accompanies affordable housing agreements
negotiated between the city and developers, though some neighborhood
residents remain concerned that the project will accelerate
On Jan. 29, 2018, the Frances Goldin Senior Apartments became the
first of 10 buildings to open at Essex Crossing
Located at 175 Delancey Street, it has 99 apartments for low-income
seniors, a fourth-floor senior center, a medical center run by NYU
Langone, job training services for young adults and a cafe operated by
Grand Street Settlement. Goldin, now 93, was joined by friends,
neighbors and city officials at the opening ceremony
Silver, meanwhile, was awaiting retrial on federal corruption charges.
“We succeeded and he failed, and that’s good,” she told NY1
MEETING FRANCES GOLDIN
I first met Frances in 2009 when I was invited to her 85th birthday
party by a mutual friend. A festive crowd of a couple hundred friends
and fellow activists turned out to celebrate her life. She reveled in
the moment. The event was held at the recently opened Chinatown YMCA
on the corner of Bowery and East Houston. This community space was
another byproduct of a multi-decade battle between the feisty
activists of the Cooper Square Committee and the city — in this case
over a parcel of land on the southside of Houston between Chrystie
Street and Bowery.
Amid her tireless organizing for affordable housing, Frances founded
the Frances Goldin Literary Agency [[link removed]]. The
former secretary was now her own boss. When she hung her shingle
in trade publications, it came with a promise: “I do not market any
material that is sexist, racist, homophobic or gratuitously
Barbara Kingsolver became a client. So too did Adrienne Rich, Dorothy
Allison, Mike Wallace, Staceyann Chin and death-row journalist Mumia
Abu Jamal, among others.
In February 2013, Frances called _The_ _Indy_ to thank us for
running an interview
[[link removed]] with
the director of a documentary about Mumia. She said she had read the
paper every month for years and mentioned she was working on a new
book project. It would explore what a socialist United States might
look like. This time she was not only the book’s agent but it’s
co-editor along with two close friends of hers, Debby Smith
and Michael Steven Smith
Frances had been a regular presence at Zuccotti Park
[[link removed]] a
couple of years earlier — an old lady in purple garb (worn to honor
her two lesbian daughters), a purple streak in her otherwise silver
hair, holding aloft a sign that read “I’m 87 And Mad As Hell.”
In one memorable scene
[[link removed]] she pleaded to no avail
with the police to arrest her along with the young people who were
being hauled away.
She found Occupy Wall Street and its revival of class politics in
American life to be deeply inspiring. In Occupy’s aftermath, a Pew
[[link removed]] found
that people aged 18 to 29 favored socialism over capitalism even
though few could say exactly what they meant by the former. Frances
wanted to fill in the gaps.
Frances trying to convince the cops to arrest her at Occupy Wall
Street. They wouldn't.
Photo: Brendon Stuart // The Indypendent
From the moment I spoke with her on the phone, I
felt _The_ _Indy_ should take the lead in promoting the book in New
York City. She agreed and convinced Harper Collins, her publisher, to
get out the checkbook.
_The Indy_ produced a four-page wrap-around special section
[[link removed]] when
the book came out in January 2014. It included an interview
[[link removed]] with
Frances, a retrospective on famous Americans who were socialists and a
cover photo of a young woman blowing a kiss to a crowd of protesters
from atop a friend’s shoulders. Socialism, it said, does not have to
be a long, unhappy slog to the gulag.
The book launch at the Housing Works bookstore in Soho was packed to
the rafters with 250 people present. _Imagine: Living in a Socialist
USA _was ahead of its time and did not become a bestseller, but it
was a harbinger of the socialist revival that arrived with Bernie
Sanders’ 2016 presidential run.
SOLIDARITY IN ACTION
Frances, Michael and Debby understood there is no conceivable path to
winning a socialist society without a robust left media. After the
book launch, they hosted a house party for _The_ _Indy_, encouraging
their friends to turn out.
“I feel like I haven’t had a paper since the
old (U.S.) _Guardian_
[[link removed]] died,” she told
the assembled crowd, referring to the New York City-based left weekly
that folded in 1992 after a 44-year run. “But now I do. It’s _The
Our paper had been barely scraping by and needed a boost. The windfall
from that night helped stabilize it financially and put us on a course
that would ultimately see _The_ _Indy_’s circulation triple over
the next few years.
Frances continued to read the paper every month for as long as she was
able to do so. We were fortunate to have such a good friend who
didn’t just talk about solidarity but practiced it always and
everywhere. Her legacy will endure in the books she shepherded into
existence and in the victories she won for her community. It will live
on in all who knew and loved her, who were moved by her zest for life
and for struggle.
For leftists, Frances demonstrated you can be serious about your work,
committed in your principles, but also live joyously and, with enough
perseverance, win victories that others thought impossible.
May her dream of a socialist USA — humane, inclusive and deeply
democratic — also be won someday.
¡Frances Goldin presente!
_[John Tarleton is the editor-in-chief of The Indypendent.]_
_Thanks to the author for sending this to xxxxxx._
_The Indypendent is a monthly New York City-based newspaper and
website. To subscribe to the print edition, click here
[[link removed]]. Support great independent
journalism. (One-year subscription - 12 issues (mailed monthly to U.S.
address. Click here
Remembering Frances Goldin, A Fearless Fighter For Affordable Housing
May 23, 2020
The Lo-Down - News from the Lower East Side
Francis Goldin spoke at a rally on the SPURA site in 2019.
You may have seen the tributes in the past week to Frances Goldin, the
legendary Lower East Side community activist who died at the age of
95. Goldin was co-founder of the Cooper Square Committee and
the Lower East Side Joint Planning Council. In an obituary, The New
[[link removed]] called
Goldin “an unreconstructed socialist… an advocate for affordable
housing and a staunch defender of the poor.”
She was also a key figure in the epic four-decade-long battle for the
redevelopment of the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA). In 2018,
the first building to be completed as part of the mixed-income
project, 175 Delancey St., was named in her honor
At a rally in 2009 on Suffolk Street, Goldin did not mince words about
the reasons the Seward Park site remained fallow for so many years,
saying redevelopment “hasn’t happened because the people who ran
the (Grand Street) co-ops… didn’t want to be surrounded by tenants
who were darker skinned and spoke Spanish. That is racism. That is
ugly. That is anti-humanitarian.”
Listen here [[link removed]].
The community eventually compromised in 2011, agreeing to build 50%
affordable housing on the SPURA sites. It wasn’t everything Goldin
and other affordable housing activists wanted, but as she said at the
time, the deal is “not perfect but better than nothing… Let’s
see this thing built for ourselves and our children.”
During a ceremony at The Frances Goldin Senior Apartments two years
ago, she said, “I am honored to have my name associated with this
beautiful building… (which) will provide quality, accessible housing
to 100 of my deserved neighbors. Thank you for this honor!”
On Twitter, City Council member Margaret Chin said, “Rest in
power, Frances. She was an unapologetic believer in expanding access
to housing and was devoted to causes that united the diverse
communities in LES. These causes are not lost. It’s up to us to keep
this movement alive.”
U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez added,
“RIP Frances Goldin. Frances always fought the good fight and
her strong sense of community was animated by her principles of
fairness and inclusion. The #LES is a better place because of this
fighter who refused to be intimidated by the establishment.”