Queens Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talks public housing legislation at Sunnyside town hall

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks during the Dec. 14 town hall meeting. (Photo by Max Parrott/QNS)

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez used a Dec. 14 town hall in Sunnyside to fill her constituents in on her ambitious public housing bill and address questions ranging from the police presence in the subways to Sunnyside Yards.

The central purpose of the event was to outline the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act, a bill she introduced with Senator Bernie Sanders to commit billions of dollars to decarbonize America’s public housing stock over the next 10 years. 

“One of the big shifts we need to be making as a country is starting to think of our housing — especially public housing — as national infrastructure,” said Ocasio-Cortez.

The bill would invest up to $180 billion to upgrading 1.2 million public housing units in order to reduce their carbon footprint. It represents the first application of the principles outlined in the Green New Deal resolution that she introduced in February.

That resolution relies on three pillars: a decarbonization of the U.S. economy, an effort to correct for economic and racial injustice caused by climate change and a large-scale economic mobilization.

Ocasio-Cortez said that she hopes the proposal’s focus on job creation could change Americans’ perception of public housing and climate change as problems solely for coastal urbanites. 

“The economic stimulus element of this also impacts red states. Actually when you do the economic assessment of Green New Deal for Public Housing, more jobs are made in Trump voting states, than dual Democratic states,” said Ocasio-Cortz. “Public housing is not an urban issue.”

The bill would overhaul Section 3 of the Federal law governing public housing, which dictates the number of jobs in the public housing system that go to residents and other low-income people who live nearby.

Asked how she plans to address the deficit, Ocasio-Cortez said that we need to focus on fiscal policy and create mass investment in a way that would revitalize the economy, suggesting that a wealth tax would be part of this strategy in paying for public programs.

“It’s not how we are going to pay for it, it’s how we want to pay for it,” she said. “Basically how do we tax the rich?” said Ocasio-Cortez. 

In addition to the legislation, Ocasio-Cortez weighed in on several New York City issues.

Asked about her seemingly positive reaction to the announcement of Amazon’s new location in Hudson Yards, Ocastio-Cortez downplayed her viral tweet in response to the news.

“For me it’s not about cheering on their arrival, but I think it’s wrong that people dangle these deals over about heads,” she said.

The congresswoman announced that her office is about to send a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo asking him to draw down increased police presence in the MTA preempting the addition of 500 state police officers to the subway system. Ocasio-Cortez added that attacks on transit workers needs to be addressed, but she would suggest an alternative plan.

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