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Queens flooding Ida

Residents sort through damaged and destroyed items after a night of heavy rain and wind caused many homes to flood on September 2, 2021 in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens, New York City. (Photo: Scott Heins/Getty Images)

'The Climate Crisis Is an Inequality Crisis,' Says Ocasio-Cortez After Deadly Storm Hits Northeast

"Among the people MOST at risk during flash floods here are those living in off-the-books basement dwellings that don’t meet the safety codes necessary to save lives," said the New York Democrat.

Brett Wilkins

As many parts of the Northeastern United States reeled Thursday following deadly flooding, tornadoes, and other damage caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined other progressive voices in linking the climate emergency to the nation's growing inequality, and calling for urgent action to address both crises.

NBC News reports at least 43 people were killed as Ida—now a post-tropical cyclone—battered the Tri-State Area with flooding caused by record rainfall, as well as tornadic winds, over the past 24 hours.

According to the outlet:

Four women, three men and a 2-year-old boy died in separate flooding incidents in the city, police said. All eight victims lived in Queens and died in the basements of residential homes, according to New York Police Department Commissioner Dermot Shea...

In New Jersey, 23 people were killed, including four residents at the Oakwood Plaza Apartments complex in Elizabeth, four people in Somerset County, one person whose body was recovered in Passaic and one who was found in South Plainfield. Of the four residents, three were family members.

"Many of these deaths occurred in basement dwellings, many of which are illegal and growing in [number] due to the unaffordable housing crisis, but do not meet safety standards required to keep people safe in incidents like flash floods," Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted. "These are working class, immigrant, and low-income people and families."

Echoing the congresswoman's remarks, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, a Democrat, told MSNBC Thursday that this is "a climate justice issue at the end of the day."

"Think about the communities that are most impacted when these storms hit," said Richards. "They're in environmental justice communities, people living in basements... that's all tied to the affordability crisis. So we have to ensure that we're dealing with the systemic issues."

Richards accused the U.S. Congress of "dragging its feet" on passing an infrastructure bill that includes adequate funding to combat the worsening climate emergency.

"We need it done yesterday," he asserted, adding that "if we're not taking drastic and bold stances on policies and prevent this moving into the future, we're going to continue to see more deaths."

Critics have denounced the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package approved by the U.S. Senate last month for funding "false" climate solutions, while investing billions of dollars in the fossil fuel industry.

Progressives have expressed confidence that congressional Democrats can overcome Republican, right-wing Democrats' and corporate lobbying efforts against the far more ambitious and broadly popular $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation proposal, which contains groundbreaking climate and clean energy policies including a Civilian Climate Corps. 

The U.S. Senate approved the budget blueprint without a single Republican vote on August 11, while the House passed the measure along party lines nearly two weeks later. The package is backed by the Biden administration.

In addition to supporting the reconciliation bill, Ocasio-Cortez, along with Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), earlier this year reintroduced Green New Deal legislation that calls for creating more than a million jobs, upgrading U.S. infrastructure, transitioning to 100% renewable energy, and taking other critical steps to tackle the climate crisis.

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