Letter from New York
Instead of first extracting climate justice outcomes from the petroleum industry or the U.S. military, AOC decided to target public housing residents.
By Progress New York Staff
Updated 30 Nov 2019 15:02 | U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY 14) has unveiled a green “New Deal” to “invest” up to $180 billion over ten (10) years in America’s public housing stock. The plan, unveiled two weeks ago, would offer public housing residents jobs in addition to funding capital repairs that have long been ignored by the Government. A central focus of the plan aims to reduce the carbon footprint of public housing, according to a report moved by the news Web site CityLab.
But there are concerns over the plan, according to public housing residents, who are advocating for a plan to fully-fund the Local public housing agency in New York City.
Although residents of public housing in New York City face immediate public health crises, like exposure to toxic mold and poisonous lead paint, high levels of lead in drinking water, and lack of adequate heat in the winter, U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s green “New Deal” plan makes residents wait ten (10) years for full-funding, but that’s only after her plan becomes law and takes affect, something that is not assured.
In recent days, surrogates for U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez have bristled whenever critics have noted that the green “New Deal” plan ignores the current the public health crises facing public housing residents. (On a recent Facebook post, U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s supporters attacked a grassroots advocacy group for highlighting shortcomings in the green “New Deal” plan. A member of thegrassroots advocacy group is a staff member of Progress New York.) When coupled with the fact that U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s legislative proposal ignores the stated plan by Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) to put one-third (1/3) of public housing into the hands of private landlords, there appears to be no urgency to the green “New Deal” plan. The Mayor’s intention is to demolish public housing apartments in order to rezone empty lots for 70-30 luxury rental buildings and to sell air rights owned by the Local public housing agency, the New York City Housing Authority, or NYCHA. Media reports have raised concerns about increased rent hikes, rescreenings, and higher eviction rates from the centerpiece to the Mayor’s plan, known as the Rental Assistance Demonstration, or RAD.
But the conditional nature of, and the years of waiting required by, U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s green “New Deal” plan mean that the dangers public housing residents face as a result of public health crises and Mayor de Blasio’ on plans for NYCHA will not be countered by the ambitious environmental bill.
VIDEO EDITORIAL : AOC’s Green New Deal for Public Housing makes NYCHA tenants wait years for heat
What will be left of NYCHA years from now for the Green New Deal to improve ?
The uncertain and conditional time frame of U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s bill places NYCHA at risk of being gutted by Mayor de Blasio’s plan for demolition, rezoning, RAD conversion, and other assets sales. On the day when U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez was joined by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) to jointly unveil the green “New Deal” plan for public housing, Mayor de Blasio was amidst operating an unlawful working group to manufacture consent for the disposition of NYCHA’s public housing assets. While U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and her followers were reciting talking points about their fight against climate change, they were over-looking the community’s need to stop the Mayor’s dangerous plan.
To some critics of the green “New Deal” plan, U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez appeared to be engaged in distraction to allow Mayor de Blasio to essentially bring to an end the Government’s ownership of social housing. That accusation was based on U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s failure to leverage her media stardom or her substantial social media platform to point out the dangers in the Mayor’s plan to gut NYCHA of public housing assets. U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez has approx. 6 million followers on Twitter, nearly double that of Kardashian matriarch, Caitlyn Jenner.
Allegations that 501(c)(4) nonprofit lobbying work overlaps with the legitimate, civic issues brought before the office of U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez.
According to information obtained by Progress New York, community opposition to the Mayor’s plan has been obstructed by the Movement School, a project of Organize for Justice, which, in turn, is the 501(c)(4) lobbying arm of the Justice Democrats, the latter being the political action committee of nye demokrater widely-credited with electing U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez to Congress. According to this information, the sole purpose of Movement School is recruiting new students to promote the politics and candidates of Justice Democrats. As a result, the organising of Movement School deliberately falls short of criticising the Mayor over his plan to establish the dangerous precedent to demolish public housing apartments that have not been condemned for uninhabitability. Instead, the Mayor solely intends to demolish public housing apartments in order to make way for 70-30 luxury apartment buildings. Once the Mayor establishes this new paradigm for demolition of public housing, there will be no going back to a time when the civic responsibility in respect of NYCHA was to preserve and expand Government ownership of social housing. Movement School has been described as a project that was formed by veterans of U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s 2018 Congressional campaign.
According to more information obtained by Progress New York, Movement School big-footed community organising of NYCHA tenants after one of its co-founders, Randy Abreu, an aide to U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, said last March that the Congressional Representative would not be submitting a budget resolution to fully-fund NYCHA due to U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s aversion of criticism from President Donald Trump (R) and any criticism of Mayor de Blasio. In the vacuum of U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s failure of leadership, Mr. Abreu said that Movement School would organise the same tenants that U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez had just shunned. For this report, the office of U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez did not immediately answer an interview request.
According to other information obtained by Progress New York, some public housing organisations loyal to U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez make it a condition of organising with others an expression of support of Movement School. When one such Ocasio-Cortez loyalist was asked about U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s failure last March to support a budget resolution to fully-fund NYCHA, the loyalist pivoted to demanding support for the uncertain green “New Deal” plan. This demonstrated a lack of any separation from the civic duties of the office of U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, on the one hand, from the political action committee work of Movement School, on the other. Congressional employees are prohibited from engaging in campaign work. See the Hatch Act, 5 U.S.C. § 7321 et seq.
Although the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York’s southern district was believed to be in possession of information about the allegations that the work of a 501(c)(4) nonprofit lobbying group was overlapping with legitimate constituent issues brought before the office of U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, the press office for the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not answer a request for information for this report.
Extracting climate justice outcomes from those with the least reveals a lack of “moral clarity,” and leads to political risks.
U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s green “New Deal” plan for public housing was allegedly inspired by the same themes that were said to have informed her campaign for Congress in 2018. According to media reports, U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez was called to run for the U.S. House of Representatives after she was moved by the injustices she witnessed during the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline in the Standing Rock Reservation in the Dakotas.
Whereas it may be noble that U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez has chosen to focus on climate change to shape the Congressional legislative agenda, she has not explained why she bypassed harmful industries or economic sectors, like petroleum drilling and refining, military contractors, or the U.S. Armed Forces, themselves, as targets from which to first extract climate justice outcomes.
U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s green “New Deal” plan is more than twice the cost of the $70 billion public funding bill sponsored last month by U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY 7). According to one analysis of the politics facing U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s bill, the jobs aspect was designed to appeal to corporate Democrats and Republicans. Furthermore, when U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez chose to focus on public housing residents from whom to first extract climate justice outcomes, she was practising a form of harm that have typically long been the work of conservatives, neoconservatives, and neoliberals : Make Federal transfer payments subject to concessions and conditions, such as jobs requirements or long funding periods in order to make Federal transfer payments more palatable to corporate Democrats and Republicans.
Although U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez can speak well about ending climate denial, she, herself, has been exhibiting a form of denial, say some, about how the uncertain and conditional aspects of her bill do nothing, for example, to provide funding for the estimated $3 billion needed for essential heating upgrades by NYCHA, according to some public housing residents.
If U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez choses to ignore the dangers posed by the concessions and conditions of her bill, she risks alienating public housing residents at a critical time in our Nation’s governance. For, were public housing residents to discover that they were being manipulated to support a bill that was specifically designed to influence election outcomes instead of alleviating the public housing residents’ suffering and misery, then public housing residents would sour on U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and her political agenda. This disenchantment could lead to a loss of confidence in the Democratic Party by its base just as political élites attempt to wrest control of the Government away from President Trump, who has been accused of corruption.
A get-out-the-vote gimmick ?
Furthermore, some critics have accused U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez of structuring her green “New Deal” plan as conditioned on the presidential election of U.S. Sen. Sanders. The presidential election won’t take place until 2020, and, were he to win, U.S. Sen. Sanders would be installed in office in 2021. But that, alone, would not guarantee passage of the green “New Deal” plan in 2021. Concurrently with U.S. Sen. Sanders’ hypothetical win, voters would have to elect majorities of nye demokrater to both houses of the U.S. Congress by sufficient margins, so that U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s legislation would stand a chance at passage. Were nye demokrater to fail to form new majorities in both houses in 2020, they would have to wait until the elections of 2022. Were they to win then, they would be installed into office in 2023, and passage of the green “New Deal” plan for public housing could be taken up that year then, potentially. In the interim, public housing residents would be forced to wait, not knowing if there would be a NYCHA left to fund, should Mayor de Blasio succeed, before 2021, at manufacturing consent to end public housing as it has been known.
For an activist with sensitivities to the looming climate change disaster facing the planet, U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez appears ignorant of the impending disaster facing the Local public housing authority, given the uncertain and unrealistic timeframe of her legislative proposal, say some public housing residents.