Gentrification, healthcare and education were the primary topics residents discussed at a town hall hosted by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez last week.
The event was held Wednesday, November 6 at P.S. 71, Rosa E. Scala School, 3040 Roberts Avenue.
The outspoken congresswoman began her talk by briefly explaining her poverty legislation, titled A Just Society, which involves five bills and a resolution dealing with how to improve jobs, immigration and the economy.
The audience of just over 50 concerned residents was calm as people were eager to chat with their congresswoman.
One resident named Darius, who went to school at P.S. 71, said his sister is a teacher who often spends way too much money on supplies. He asked the congresswomanwhat could be done to better fund education.
“First of all we need to pay them (teachers) more,” she said.
According to the congresswoman, the problem with finding money for schools is that the ‘bag’ often gets passed from the federal, to the state and then to the city. Ultimately, it’s like a game of telephone, she explained
“We need to fully fund public schools,” she exclaimed.
Austin Hill asked Ocasio-Cortes how she feels about universal basic income. He noted that it could benefit many people in society, including himself, who are being priced out of their neighborhoods. In a single income household it can be quite challenging, he said.
“When it comes to UBI, there’s more than one way to go about it,” the congreeswoman said.
Ocasio-Cortes explained that if the federal government gave people a $1,000 a month for example, the government might get rid of programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Furthermore, how far can $1,000 really get people a month? While it can help, it can only go so far, she said.
Ocasio-Cortes said it’s important for people to work, but not everyone can. Some are caretakers, others are disabled or sick.
Another topic discussed was the disparity in funding for private and public hospitals.
Kelly Cabrera, a nurse at Jacobi Medical Center, asked the congresswoman how this issue could be resolved.
The congresswoman said there is no panacea for fixing the funding between private and public hospitals offering the implementation of a single payer healthcare system as a possible solution.
“NYC used to have a rich tradition of public hospitals, especially here in the Bronx and they slowly were gutted over time,” she said.
She stressed that everyone should have healthcare regardless of how much he or she makes or his or her legal status. Furthermore,she explained, cracks in the system happen when the government decides who is or isn’t eligible for healthcare.
Gentrification, which is credited as a key factor in her winning her congressional seat, was brought up by Reverend Marilyn Oliver who asked if it is good or bad for the borough.
“There are people that live in this community because they want to live in this community,” the congresswoman said. “That’s what makes the Bronx the Bronx. It (gentrification) creates a transient community. It displaces everybody.”