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POTOMAC PLACE

Now You Know, Joe - Things Have Changed

The results of the recent Democrat primary in New York surprised many, but it was a change in the making for many years.

The media and many political savants were stunned when 56-year old Joseph Crowley, the powerful chairman of the Queens Democrat Party and the 20-year incumbent Member of Congress representing New York’s 14th Congressional District was pummeled in his 2018 primary contest by a 28-year old savvy and articulate Latina, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who up until a few months ago was tending bar in a taco restaurant in Manhattan’s Union Square.

There’s a lot happening here that Ocasio-Cortez obviously knew and Crowley should have. Obviously a keener observer, she seized on Crowley’s hubris and his energetic support of New York’s financial community and its generous support for him. Crowley had made the classic mistake of moving his family from Queens to Virginia, which she made issue of in their only debate, noting he didn’t live here and he’s the big bankers go to guy and vice versa. Simply put, he’s not one of us. Another and important factor was that she was a key organizer in the Bronx for Bernie Sander’s 2016 Democrat presidential primary campaign. Sanders beat Hillary Clinton in many parts of the 14th Congressional District. Further, more familiar with social media, she doubled Crowley’s effort both in Spanish and English on Facebook and Instagram. She effectively waged a digital door-to-door campaign. The ground was plowed and the seeds had been firmly planted.

I know the area well. I was born in Jackson Heights and raised in Woodside. Whenever I visit New York, I stay with my sister Carol in Woodside. Three of my father’s sisters lived in Parkchester, a huge Bronx apartment complex where Ocasio-Cortez resides. I have many cousins living in the Bronx. My sister Carol being treasurer of the Queens Historical Society, a few years ago I was invited to address the Society on the significant demographic changes in Queens. The demographic data was eve-opening. What Crowley didn’t recognize was quite obvious. All you had to do was ride the subway, which he never did.

My lecture, The Changing Face of Queens, also appearing on this blog, notes that the seeds of change were planted by the U.S. Congress in 1965 when it liberalized U.S. immigration policy. In the space of 50 years, Queens became a haven to immigrants. Now more than 50 percent of its residents are foreign born. The experience in the Bronx is similar.

It was there for all to see, new faces, new ideas, and different needs. Another important factor is the escalation in the costs of housing. Young people, with rental costs in Manhattan, and now Brooklyn, soaring, found refuge in the close in Queens’ neighborhoods of Astoria, Sunnyside, Woodside, and Jackson Heights that have more affordable rents and access to the subway. These new arrivals, the Bernie Sanders supporters, became change agents. Ocasio-Cortez scored better in these neighborhoods than she did in her native Bronx. She beat Crowley 59 to 41 percent in Queens, five points better than her 54 to 46 victory in her native Bronx.

As Bob Dylan said, Joe:

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
For the times they are a-changin.
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