Like two ships passing in the night, U.S. Reps. Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island/Southern Brooklyn) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Queens/Bronx) were each asked to vote on the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal that would deliver about $27 billion for hard infrastructure for New York State.
And when the fog lifted, the center-right Malliotakis crossed party lines to deliver the federal funding to her district and the state, while the far-left AOC was only one of six Democrats to vote against the measure, disappointing quite a few Democrats who sources say grumbled about her decision at the recent political SOMOS gathering in Puerto Rico.
“I proudly voted for the bipartisan infrastructure package that will improve the safety and prosperity of communities across America and make the necessary improvements to bring our infrastructure into the 21st century. For far too long, our local, state, and federal leaders have neglected to modernize New York City’s aging infrastructure to keep pace with economic and population growth. The funding stream we are providing today will be used by states and cities to modernize roads, highways, bridges, sewer systems, and flood resiliency projects, including right here on Staten Island and in Southern Brooklyn,” said Malliotakis after the measure passed in the House.
Malliotakis noted the funding could be used for new fast ferry lines connecting the city’s five boroughs, upgrading the subway system’s pre-WWII signals, or completing the High-Occupancy Vehicles (HOV) lane on the Staten Island Expressway. The city could afford to fortify neighborhoods along the coastline with resiliency projects like the East Shore Seawall and expand the sewer systems to deal with the next Superstorm Sandy or Hurricane Ida, she said.
“Additionally, the funding would reduce the need for the MTA to raid operating funds to pay off debt incurred for capital improvements. Simply put, it’s this type of investment that will not only save city residents’ time and money but also their properties and lives,” said Malliotakis.
“While the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure package is an undisputable victory for New York, it’s only the first step in the long process of addressing our city and state’s infrastructure needs. It is now up to our city and state governments to allocate and prioritize this funding and I will continue to work to ensure they do so appropriately,” she added.
On the other side of the spectrum, AOC explained her no vote to constituents in a newsletter because it didn’t advance its companion legislation — the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act (BBB).
“We fear Congress may have jeopardized immigration reform, funding for NYCHA and any chance to meaningfully address climate change, “ read the release, which was as a message from AOC’s office.
The newsletter further explained how the Congressional Progressive Caucus felt the two bills should have been voted on at the same time.
“So, essentially, the deal for all of this Summer and Fall was that progressive Democrats would vote for an infrastructure bill, if conservative Democrats would vote for BBB. But this past Friday, the White House and House leadership changed their strategy. Negotiations around these two bills had been ongoing for months, and leadership decided they wanted the infrastructure bill to pass on its own so Democrats could claim some sort of victory after tough election results in Virginia and elsewhere,” read the newsletter.
“But the calculus for our community did not change. We could not risk that immigration reform, funding for NYCHA, climate change provisions and so many other important priorities would not be passed. So the Congresswoman stuck to her word and voted against the infrastructure bill, in order to try to keep these two bills tied together.”
AOC’s ‘No’ vote had some mainstream Democrats recalling her opposition to bringing an Amazon headquarters to Long Island City, Queens. But several Queens Democratic sources said while AOC could very well get primaried by a moderate Democrat again next year, it would be an uphill battle to unseat the nationally known progressive Democrat.