By Christina Santucci
Astoria’s new city councilman hopes to make his district safer, cleaner and greener, he told supporters during a ceremonial inauguration Sunday.
“This is your victory. This is your community, and I promise to work as hard as I can,” Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) told the crowd gathered at Long Island City High School.
An Astoria native and Democratic district leader who served as the legislative director for former Councilman James Gennaro, Constantinides described his long history in the area, visiting Astoria Park with his father, attending William Cullen Bryant HS, playing basketball in Ditmars Park with state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) and being hired for his first job at a pharmacy in the neighborhood.
“I met my wife here on Steinway Street,” he said.
Constantinides is the first Greek Cypriot to serve on the Council after he beat out several other candidates in the general election in November.
The councilman announced his plans to increase traffic safety, remove trash, lessen pollution and fight against plans to close traditional high schools like Long Island City HS.
He praised his predecessor, former Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., for his involvement in the fight to keep Long Island City HS and the Gifted & Talented program at PS 122 open.
The Panel for Educational Policy approved the co-location of Long Island City High School in November.
“The question remains, why did Peter have to spend so much of his time beating back the plans to eviscerate these treasured local institutions?” Constantinides said, adding that he hoped to involve parents more in their children’s education.
Constantinides pledged his support for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero, which aims to decrease the number of traffic fatalities, praised a study into the feasibility of ferry service in Astoria and recommended that busy corridors like Vernon Boulevard be used for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Select Bus Service.
“That would make our wonderful neighborhood institutions like Noguchi Museum and Socrates Sculpture Park more accessible,” he said, pointing out that transportation could be used to connect the community to the Cornell Technion, which is slated to be built on Roosevelt Island.
Constantinides proposed an addition to PlanNYC requiring that at least 20 percent of new constructions be carbon neutral by 2030 and a study of the Bowery Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant in Astoria to see if it could be into a park, similar to Riverbank State Park, which is built over a sewage treatment facility on the East River.
He concluded his speech by addressing litter in his district.
“I would hear on a daily basis, ‘Costa, I’ll vote for you but you had better do something about the garbage,’” he said. “I hear those concerns very loud and clear.”
Constantinides said he is working with other electeds to draft a bill that would ensure the neighborhood has pickup every day. He also plans to bring the DOE Fund to western Queens and reintroduce a bill previously put forward by Vallone Jr. in the Council to raise the fines for illegal dumping in corner cans.
Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., who performed the ceremonial inauguration, said his son, Vallone Jr. was unable to attend the festivities because of a virus.
But a bevy of other elected officials were on hand for the event, emceed by Constantinides’ “mentor,” Gennaro.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Public Advocate Letitia James, city Comptroller Scott Stringer, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas and Gianaris all spoke.
Deputy Borough President Leroy Comrie, former city Comptroller John Liu, Assembly members Rory Lancman, Nily Rozic and David Weprin and Council members Jimmy Van Bramer, Mark Weprin, Elizabeth Crowley, Ruben Wills and Karen Koslowitz also attended the ceremony.
Reach managing editor Christina Santucci by e-mail at email@example.com by phone at 718-260-4589.