There was a nearly packed house at Woodside Intermediate School 125 over the weekend, which was the host site for U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal for Public Housing Town Hall for Woodside and Sunnyside residents.
During the two-hour town hall, Ocasio-Cortez (D-Jackson Heights) discussed how her legislation could impact public housing across the country, in Woodside, Sunnyside and New York’s Congressional 14th District, which also includes Astoria, College Point, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights.
“One of the shifts that I think we should be making as a country is to start thinking of our housing stock, especially our public housing stock as national infrastructure,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “It’s all in the name. This is public housing – this is publicly-owned housing and we need to start thinking of the integrity of our public housing system and our buildings the same way as we think of the integrity of our schools, our bridges and our roads.”
There has been a failure to treat NYCHA residents as a critical part of our community, according to Ocasio-Cortez.
“People have been going in the middle of winter without hot water, without heat in their apartments, with mold that is starting to creep in and making people sick, lead in the paint – we really need to start making this a national priority,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “This is such a large health crisis.”
Ocasio-Cortez believes that tackling the problems within public housing is an opportunity to address both climate change issues while revitalizing the economy.
“If we make the effort to decarbonize and retrofit our entire public housing stock, we can create millions and millions of jobs,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “We can create tens of thousands of jobs right here in New York City and make sure that people who live in public housing get preference for those jobs and also for those contracts.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s legislation includes seven grants, including one that would expand Section 3, a program that requires that recipients of certain HUD financial assistance, to the greatest extent possible, be provided training, employment, contracting and other economic opportunities, according to hud.gov.
“It’s actually a trial jobs program within our public housing community,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “These grants have preferences for the kinds of jobs that we want to pursue in public housing.”
Decarbonization projects that install renewable energy into public housing complexes, like solar panels, grants for childcare programs, local health food stores and construction jobs are just a few of the employment opportunities that legislation could help to provide.
“What it can really do is not just invest in the actual walls of public housing, but invest in the people,” said the representative. “Folks that live in public housing are capable of not just providing these services, but to also start businesses and meet contractors for the very communities that they live in.”
One of Ocasio-Cortez’s constituents inquired if the Green New Deal for Public Housing would help to solve sewage problems in the area.
“Your comment on the sewage problem is very true. In Flushing Bay a couple of months ago, after it rains in New York City the bays are brown because of the combination of the density and the increased amount of rainfall means that our sewers overflow,” said Ocasio-Cortez, whose legislation includes infrastructural components. “The way that we fix that is very difficult to do without federal investment because it means that we have to retrofit our sewer system, which is extraordinarily difficult to do from just a city, statewide or local level.”