In the wake of millennial, Democratic Socialist politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s surprising victory in a New York congressional primary last week against a longstanding congressman, some commentators have begun to question her Bronx roots. At the center of the controversy? A ranch-style home in the Westchester, New York, community of Yorktown.
Ocasio-Cortez lived in the Bronx until she was 5 years old, according to the bio on her website, before moving further north to Yorktown. The 40-minute drive represented a different quality of economic opportunity, her bio said.
“The state of Bronx public schools in the late 80s and early 90s sent her parents on a search for a solution,” the bio reads. “She ended up attending public school 40 minutes north in Yorktown, and much of her life was defined by the 40 minute commute between school and her family in the Bronx.”
But John Cardillo, a right-wing television host, took issue with the characterization many have given “the girl from the Bronx.”
This is the Yorktown Heights (very nice area) home @Ocasio2018 grew up in before going off to Ivy League Brown University.
A far cry from the Bronx hood upbringing she’s selling. pic.twitter.com/xyOtZzVJII
— John Cardillo (@johncardillo) July 1, 2018
Ocasio-Cortez responded and corrected Cardillo for misidentifying her alma matter — which is actually Boston University — and addressed the criticism of her suburban upbringing.
“It is nice,” she tweeted. “Growing up, it was a good town for working people. My mom scrubbed toilets so I could live here and I grew up seeing how the zip code one is born in determines much of their opportunity.”
The home at the center of the controversy was sold in 2016 for $355,000 according to records on Zillow. Ocasio-Cortez’s brother Gabriel Ocasio-Cortez was the agent who sold the home.
Gabriel Ocasio-Cortez is the lead agent with The Gabe Cortez Team at Grand Lux Realty and the former director at large for the Hudson Gateway Multiple Listing Service. He said that he was not available for comment in time for this article’s publication.
Ocasio-Cortez’s primary opponent, 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley, raised more money from the real estate industry than any other industry, according to Open Secrets.
The median price of homes listed in Yorktown, according to Zillow, is $439,000, suggesting that the home that Ocasio-Cortez grew up in was on the lower-end of the town’s price spectrum.
Despite that, Cardillo has persisted, tweeting out photos of mansions in Yorktown.
“Sure, her house was small, but to claim it’s not an affluent area is dishonest,” he added. “To claim it’s similar to the Bronx is ridiculous.”
Like Yorktown, the Bronx possesses a diverse array of homes. In the Bronx, the median listing today, according to Zillow, is $349,900 — slightly less than what Ocasio-Cortez’s childhood home sold for in 2016. The median listing price per-square-foot in Yorktown is $277, and in the Bronx, it’s $259, according to Zillow.
But there’s also tremendous wealth stratification with multi-million homes in nabes like Riverdale and houses and condos listed for less than $200,000.
In fact, a 1999 feature story about Yorktown Heights — the section of Yorktown where Ocasio-Cortez lived — highlighted the diverse prices of housing. It’s not evident from public property records when her family moved there, but it was likely sometime in 1994 or 1995, due to her age and her bio.
Pat Held, the vice president of the Westchester Putnam Multiple Listing Service and an associate broker and sales manager with Houlihan Lawrence in Yorktown, told The New York Times in 1999 that Yorktown Heights was one of the few places in the country where you can “still find a home in the $100,000 range in a nice, family community.”
The 1950s ranches — like the home Ocasio-Cortez grew up in — were listed as the most affordable in the neighborhood in the story.