With her district ravaged by the coronavirus, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is coming under fire for participating in a “virtual forum” with constituents — from the comforts of her plush abode in D.C.
The House of Representatives wasn’t in session on Wednesday when AOC appeared in the video forum hosted by allies with the group Make The Road NY, which was posted on Facebook. The Topic: “COVID-19 and the Stimulus” [law approved by Congress and President Trump].
The neighborhoods in or near the 14th congressional district, covering parts of Queens and The Bronx, are among the hardest-hit in the city and country by COVID-19, according to maps released by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office. Her district office is in Jackson Heights.
The campaign of Democratic primary opponent Michelle Caruso-Cabrera noticed that the background of the room behind Ocasio-Cortez in the video matched the design of the apartment complex where AOC lives in the fashionable D.C. Navy Yard neighborhood.
Caruso-Cabrera, the former veteran CNBC anchor and reporter, teed off the on the self-described socialist for being out of touch.
“While Queens and The Bronx have lines down the block at hospitals and grocery stores, AOC is holed up at a brand new luxury apartment where she shops at Whole Foods in her lobby,” Caruso-Cabrera said.
“That’s shameful. No wonder voters think that she is out of touch. She has a golf-simulator and infinity pool and Peloton Cycle room as well as other luxuries while families in the Bronx and Queens are worried about how long the lines are at the grocery store and where they are going to get their next pay check. AOC isn’t even here to see their desperation and their struggle to survive with her own eyes,” the challenger said.
Caruso-Cabrera’s campaign also pointed out that AOC criticized the predecessor she toppled in 2018, former Congressman Joe Crowley, for spending more time in Virginia, where he and his family lives, than in the district.
“[Crowley] doesn’t live here, send his kids to our schools, doesn’t drink our water or breathe our air [and] cannot possibly represent us,” Ocasio-Cortez said then.
Questions about her residency in the district also surfaced last year. The congresswoman has an apartment in The Bronx.
AOC’s spokeswoman, Lauren Hitt, confirmed that the first-time congresswoman participated in the forum from her D.C. apartment, but emphasized that she’s been visible in the district during the COVID-19 public health crisis.
“The Congresswoman traveled to D.C. last Tuesday afternoon once it was clear that a House vote on the Senate’s relief bill was imminent. She arrived back in New York [Thursday] afternoon. During that time, the congresswoman has remained actively engaged in all district business,” Hitt said.
Ocasio-Cortez held more than four virtual Q&A sessions to explain the COVID-19 relief bill to constituents and take questions about how it works, her spokeswoman said.
Hitt also said AOC participated in NY congressional delegation calls with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio to discuss the Senate’s $2 trillion relief bill and held remote discussions with the leadership of NYCHA and Health+Hospitals.
“She also began a fundraising drive for local community groups helping constituents weather COVID-19, in lieu of traditional end of the quarter campaign fundraising. Since last Friday she’s raised over $135,000 for nine community groups,” Hitt said.
During Wednesday’s remote forum, AOC said she backed a rent-strike to pressure Cuomo and others to cancel rent payments for tenants during the COVID-19 crisis. Cuomo passed an emergency order barring tenants from evicting tenants for 90 days and imposing a moratorium of mortgage payments.
AOC had criticized Cuomo, saying the eviction order didn’t go far enough and that he was favoring property owners.