By Nathan Duke
Delis, hired as district manager in 1977, said he would leave his post on May 1 and take time off before venturing back into community service.”I love community service and I was happy to be part of the development of this community,” he said. “But it's just time to move on and I'd like to take time off. This is the greatest community in New York City – it's full of life.”Delis said he would take time off for some time but attempt to become involved in public service again in the near future.”I'll be a free man,” he said. “I'll change my phone number, my identity and my address. When people stop me on the street, I'll tell them George Delis is no longer with us. I'm going to do what [former President] Harry Truman did. I'll have a cup of coffee and take a five-mile walk in the morning. The only difference is that he had the Secret Service to follow him around.”Delis was born in Saloniki, Greece, but moved shortly thereafter with his father, a barber, and mother to Hell's Kitchen in Manhattan. In 1961, the family moved to Astoria, where Delis has lived ever since.Upon being hired as the district manager of Community Board 1, which covers Astoria, Long Island City, a sliver of Woodside and several western Queens public housing developments, Delis said his first order of business was fund-raising to buy bulletproof vests for officers at Astoria's 114th Precinct.Delis said he organized a group of neighborhood children for a car wash and ended up raising enough to provide vests for the entire precinct.During his 31 years at CB 1, he also fought to improve an industrial area near 19th Avenue and Steinway Street to prevent several large businesses, including Steinway & Sons Piano, from relocating due to the neighborhood's excessive trash.”There was garbage piled two stories high,” he said. “But today it's a stable area.”He said he also worked on the original proposal for Astoria's Museum of the Moving Image, fought to prevent upzoning of the neighborhood to preserve its character and helped get several community institutions, such as Socrates Sculpture Park, upgraded.Delis ran for state Senate as a Democrat in 1998, but was defeated by longtime state Sen. George Onorato (D-Astoria).”I didn't think I would win that race, but it was fun,” he said. “George is the nicest guy – he never held it against me and still talks to me. I just always wanted to run. It's the American way. People should have the right to run for office.”City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), who had a minor flap with Delis in 2005 when he used board letterhead to broadcast his own opinions, said he and CB 1 would hire a new district manager.”George was a fixture on the community board and it will not be the same without him,” he said.Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.