Co-op City and the Story of New York

Tue, Sep 13, 2022
Three Hills, 2022

In Freedomland, Annemarie Sammartino tells Co-op City's story from the perspectives of those who built it and of the ordinary people who made their homes in this monument to imperfect liberal ideals of economic and social justice. Located on the grounds of the former Freedomland amusement park on the northeastern edge of the Bronx, Co-op City's 35 towers and 236 townhouses have been home to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers.

In 1965, Co-op City was planned as the largest middle-class housing development in the United States. Intended as a solution to the problem of affordable housing, Co-op City first appeared to be a huge success story for integrated, middle-class housing. However, tensions arose and led residents to organize the largest rent strike in American history. In 1975, a coalition of shareholders secured resident control, but even this achievement did not halt rising costs or white flight. Still, the cooperative achieved a hard-won stability in the late 20th century. Freedomland chronicles the tumultuous first quarter century of Co-op City's existence. Sammartino's narrative connects planning, economic, and political history and the history of race in America.

Annemarie H. Sammartino

Annemarie H. Sammartino is Professor of History at Oberlin College and Conservatory, where she teaches courses in modern European history and urban and migration history and intellectual history. She is also the author of The Impossible Border: Germany and the East, 1914–1922. 


The video begins with an introduction of Annemarie Sammartino by Museum Director Carol Willis. Sammartino's illustrated talk follows, then a dialogue with Willis and Q&A.