I Don’t Care Where Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Lives
Breathless coverage of this freshman Congressman is getting tiresome.
Yet more breathless coverage of the freshman Congressman, this time from the New York Post, who assigned three reporters to figure out “Where in the world does Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez live?”
She may be America’s most famous freshman congresswoman, but in New York, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a virtual ghost.
She has no district office and no local phone number, unlike the state’s three other freshman members.
And it’s unclear whether the 29-year-old lawmaker, who represents the Bronx and Queens, actually still lives in the Parkchester neighborhood that has been so closely tied to her rise — even though she won her upset victory over fellow Democrat Rep. Joe Crowley with accusations that his home in Virginia made him too Washington-focused to serve his district.
So, the last at least gives the story an interesting hook. But Crowley served 32 years in Congress; Ocasio-Cortez has barely eclipsed 32 days—it’s unlikely she’s lost touch with her district.
Ocasio-Cortez has used her deceased father’s Bronx condo on her voter registration since 2012, and even posed in the one-bedroom Bronx flat for celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz in a Vogue magazine profile after her stunning November election. But The Post could find little indication she continues to live there.
The Post e-mailed the Ocasio-Cortez’ spokesman, Corbin Trent, four times with specific questions — they were all ignored. On Saturday, The Post reached Corbin by phone.
“We will not be commenting,” he said. Among the queries he refused to answer: Where does the congresswoman live?
Ocasio-Cortez was in New York City last weekend and this weekend, with appearances in Queens on both Saturdays — yet she was not seen coming or going from her Parkchester pad either day.
Her apartment’s next-door neighbor said she had never seen Ocasio-Cortez. Another neighbor, who has lived down the hall from the congresswoman’s apartment for the last 40 years, said he’d never seen her or her boyfriend, Riley Roberts, who has claimed the address as his own since last spring.
“I would have remembered,” said the neighbor when shown a photograph of Ocasio-Cortez.
Workers at Jerry’s Pizzeria, less than a block from her building, and at the local grocery store said she had never patronized their businesses — and a server at a nearby taqueria said the congresswoman had only come in to be filmed by news crews.
A postal worker who delivers mail to the building said that in the last 10 years he has only seen Ocasio-Cortez intermittently, and that several months’ worth of mail regularly accumulates in the mailbox before anyone bothers to collect it. The worker said that Ocasio-Cortez and Roberts were the only ones getting mail at the address.
“Just because their names are on the box doesn’t mean they live there,” he said.
So . . . that’s a little weird. It may be that she moved a lot and just kept her dad’s condo as her fixed address for convenience, but it’s odd that no one was picking up her mail. It may also be that, given the amount of media scrutiny she’s gotten, she prefers to keep her actual residence private. Unless she’s violating the law in doing so, I’m not sure why we care. Again, she’s just been in Congress a few weeks—it’s not like she’s lost touch with her constituency already.
And in 2017, when Ocasio-Cortez first filed paperwork to become a congressional candidate, she didn’t even know what district she lived in, mistakenly declaring plans to run for neighboring District 15 before correcting the error days later.
That’s mildly amusing but, again, not a big deal.
Meanwhile, in Washington, Ocasio-Cortez has rented a pad in a luxe building in the chic Navy Yard neighborhood, where studios start at $1,840 a month, according to the Washington Examiner.
Her new digs feature gold-plated amenities like a rooftop infinity pool, a cycling studio with a dozen pricey Pelotons, men’s and women’s saunas, and a golf simulation lounge — but no affordable units for low-income residents, in spite of a local law that requires them, the news site reported.
This is pitiful: she basically lives in a halfway decent building. DC isn’t cheap and $1840 a month is not a lot of money. Hell, I paid $1200 a month for a decent two-bedroom townhouse way out in Ashburn, Virginia when I first moved to the area 17 years ago. We had a gym, too, albeit no saunas or infinity pool. I could understand some local bloggers from Paducka not understanding this basic context. At least one of three reporters from a newspaper in New York City should know better.
In the eight months since Ocasio-Cortez’s dramatic defeat of the long-serving Crowley in June’s Democratic primary — a victory that all but guaranteed a general election win in the heavily Democratic District 14 — the congresswoman has failed to open a local office.
The framing here is absurd. It’s true that it was all but certain that she was going to win once the primary result came in. But she wasn’t going to be able to rent office space or hire a staff until she had access to the funds for that. One presumes that happens only when she actually got sworn in last month; otherwise, the taxpayer would have had to foot the bill for both Crowley’s office (he was, after all, still the Representative for District 14) and hers.
Ocasio-Cortez has made four trips to the city since she was inducted to Congress on Jan. 3, according to a Post review of published reports and social media. Those excursions featured five public events in her district — and three high-profile Manhattan appearances, including a Jan. 21 guest slot on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
A district office “makes government immediately responsible and accountable to the citizens,” said Jadan Horyn of Reclaim New York, a government watchdog group.
“Constituents need to know their representatives are working for them, and not for national prominence.”
The space slated for Ocasio-Cortez’s constituent office is in a new building in Jackson Heights.
So . . . the complaint is that she’s been back to New York multiple times for public events but doesn’t have an office, which demonstrates that she’s in it for national prominence instead of working for her constituents? And yet there is a space slated for a constituent service office? Huh?
Suites in the building at 74-09 37th Avenue rent for about $40 per square foot. Ocasio-Cortez’s office, on the third floor, is just under 5,000 square feet, which would bring the annual undiscounted rental price to $200,000 or nearly $17,000 a month.
In January, Ocasio-Cortez sought to blame the delay on a stubborn landlord at a different building where her predecessor Crowley maintained one of his two district offices.
“Although we attempted to take over our predecessor’s lease, the landlord wanted to almost double rent” from $7,800 to $15,000 per month, she tweeted Jan. 22 — without specifying which of Crowley’s spaces she had hoped to inherit.
“That spike would have meant less caseworkers for our community,” she posted. “Instead, we’re making a new space with a family business!”
But Ocasio-Cortez neglected to mention that her rent would end up likely topping the cost of Crowley’s former digs.
When The Post visited last week, the congresswoman’s office was still under construction, with workers building interior walls and installing drywall. A carpenter there said the work would probably take several more weeks to complete. A staffer said at a community board meeting that it would open March 4.
It’s unknown if taxpayers or the landlord is paying for the extensive renovations.
A spokesman for Cow Bay Contracting, the Nassau County construction company working on the office space, refused comment. Ocasio-Cortez’s office refused to answer the question.
Now, I think the Congresswoman’s office ought to answer these sorts of questions, even if they’re annoying. Still, given the sensationalistic nature of the rest of the report, I’m skeptical at the numbers here. Besides which: Ocasio-Cortez, like any other Member of Congress, is given a budget for office space, staff salaries, and the like. There is no Congressional equivalent to “overseas contingency operation” funding where they get to pay for renovations off-budget.
Obviously, Ocasio-Cortez needs to open one or more offices in her district. It sounds like one, at least, is currently under construction. Unless she’s the only freshman Member who hasn’t yet opened for business, there doesn’t seem to be a story here.