Queens Gazette: AOC Holds Live Townhall Meeting In Astoria

Originally published in Queens Gazette

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s townhall meeting for April was held at Public School 70Q in Astoria on Wednesday the 20th, be­ginning at 6:00 p.m. Just before the Con­gresswoman for the 14th District, New York took the stage, she was introduced by State Senator Michael Gianaris, who said she has skillfully combined an exceptional alertness about her district, NY 14, while maintaining a national presence that has gained her dis­tant admirers (and opponents).

Ocasio-Cortez had made it plain that she’d be talking about the Green New Deal (GND) and climate justice, and after observ­ing how she and her staff had learned a lot about operating meetings live and virtually, she turned directly to it.

Concerning the GND and climate justice, Ocasio-Cortez said she didn’t want to in­dulge in “gloom and doom,” though she did say that at the current rate of environmental deterioration, the earth could be uninhabit­able by 2100, but if we act in time, “there’s something we could do about it.”

Consider our locality, she said. Queens has the most land area and is the most im­periled of the city’s boroughs, being most likely, with Manhattan, to be inundated by floods as a result of climate change. Realiz­ing this, New York has become one of more than 10 localities in the United States—Los Angeles and New Mexico being two oth­ers— to be a declared critical GND area. New York, Ocasio-Cortez said, has the only public school of higher education that em­phasizes GND matters, that school being State University of New York (SUNY) Mar­itime, in the Bronx neighborhood of Throgs Neck.

Ocasio-Cortez also mentioned a signif­icant announcement, to be made before the end of April, about the GND. She didn’t elaborate beyond saying that a total of 79 GND projects would be introduced. Activi­ties right now include drawing down emis­sions and decarbonizing, to check climate injustice. The Congresswoman said that challenging dubious energy plans was also necessary, citing one by NRG Energy to supply fossil fuel electricity to Astoria for the coming summer, anticipating hot weather events that NRG believes call for increasing energy for air conditioning.

Further increases in the use of fossil fuels must be discouraged, she said. For one thing, they can only grow as an expense, since they are based on the use of perishing resources. She was then glad to announce that GND would have its first congressional hearing the following week. She said it’s wonderful it has gained such attention so quickly, since plans like this often wait years to get a hearing.

The questions and commentary segment of the meeting began with a statement of gratitude from a Sunnyside Community Services man who thanked the congress­woman for her aid in helping SCS achieve a rebuilding plan for Woodside Houses. That is a massive project that calls for ex­tensive street repair. In September 2021, the repair plan was ready for implementation when the storm that succeeded Hurricane Ida added great damage to an already hob­bled housing project. AOC said that housing and schools qualify as infrastructure as much as roads and bridges do.

We must be educated in building away from fossil fuels, she said, and bypassing those who believe them utterly indispensa­ble. Those persons might say that solar and wind power energy will take decades to de­velop on a large scale, but, she asserted, “nothing could be further from the truth.”

Ocasio-Cortez was glad to take on a question about electronic waste, believing that e-waste is real and a problem to be overcome. There is no carbon emitted from them though, and she said that investment in solar panels is necessary, but it’s also nec­essary to build them more long-lived than they are now. At one time, their life was shorter than today’s 25 years, but now it must be increased beyond that number.

A counter-statement came from an at­tendee who said the greatest problem we now face is immigration justice. He said his friends and he don’t worry about GND nearly as much as they do about that topic. She said that the climate crisis impinges on everything and told the man that she is acutely aware of the quest for immigration justice, having led interventions to rescue immigrants from airplanes where Immigra­tion Control and Enforcement (ICE) agents had loaded them for the purpose of depor­tation. In addition, she has covered immi­gration in previous meetings and would doubtless do it again in meetings to come.

Thinking about the finding that five of the top 10 COVID zones in the U.S. are in the New York metropolitan area led her back to one of her prime concerns, the Fed­eral Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)’s assistance programs for funerals. She said that anyone should be funded for 100 percent of funeral and burial expenses, insisting that the poor and stressed among us pay more to government than giants such as Facebook, Amazon and Wall Street.

It was all that and more in an hour and a half.