Astoria City Councilman Costa Constantinides is leaving office to lead the Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens next week, he announced on Wednesday, March 31.
“For the past seven-plus years, I have woken up every day to make our community a better place. I gave my all each day and did my best to honor the confidence you had shown in me in making me your representative,” Constantinides said. “Today I announce a profoundly difficult and personal decision. I must resign from the New York City Council on April 9. I have been asked by the Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens to become their new chief executive officer and have accepted this role.”
Constantinides, who is term limited, will be leaving office before his term officially ends in December. His announcement comes two months after City & State reported his imminent departure.
It is unclear whether a special election will be called for his seat. QNS has reached out to the city’s Board of Elections and the mayor’s office and is waiting for a response.
Constantinides told QNS he didn’t look at “the political clock” or “game out special election dates” when making his decision to step down.
“I had to make a very personal, professional, family driven decision that wasn’t on anyone’s timeline but mine,” he said. “I just was trying to make a good decision for myself and how I can best serve the community.”
There are currently seven candidates vying to represent District 22. Last week, Constantinides made his ranked-choice endorsement in the race, with former public defender Tiffany Cabán as his first choice and community leader Evie Hantzopoulos as his second choice.
Constantinides said he won’t be campaigning for any political office, as it could jeopardize his new nonprofit role. That, he said, will be difficult, given his 15 years in politics.
When asked whether he’d run for office in the future, Constantinides said he’s “learned to never say never,” but he’s focused on being the best CEO he can be of the Variety Boys and Girls Club.
Constantinides, who currently represents District 22, which encompasses Astoria, Rikers Island, parts of Jackson Heights, Woodside and East Elmhurst, passed 44 bills during his time in the Council. Many of the legislation centered on climate and environmental justice, such as the Climate Mobilization Act and the recently passed Renewable Rikers Act.
He also counts millions of investments in Mount Sinai Queens, parks, schools and Hallets Cove Peninsula as achievements while in office.
Constantinides said the decision to leave his post prematurely isn’t one he took “lightly or without a heavy heart.” But, he sees his new role as CEO of the Variety Boys and Girls Club as a continuation of his service to the community.
“There are many ways to be a public servant that are not in elected office,” he said. “Many times that truth is forgotten by too many.”
The Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens, located at 21-12 30th Rd. in Astoria, has served western Queens’ youth for more than 65 years. The establishment provides various programs for children and the community as a whole, including tutoring, summer camp and career development opportunities.
The youth club is also working to expand even further with a new state-of-the-art facility in western Queens, which Constantinides is particularly looking forward to seeing through.
“We’re going to be building this amazing new, 11-story building with the first planetarium in Queens and great local partners,” Constantinides said, adding that he will focus on providing programs that will cater to the youth of Ravenswood and Astoria Houses.
Constantinides has a long history with the Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens, saying his mother worked there briefly 30 years ago as she re-entered the workforce. He said he always understood their “mission and their important place in our neighborhood’s heart.”
“Their deep commitment to investing in our young people and providing them with critical services is a mission of unbelievable importance. As CEO of the VBGCQ, I will seek to continue this long tradition of excellence to benefit all of our youth, but especially those young people west of 21st Street,” Constantinides said. “I asked at my inauguration to have my time as a Council member judged on what happened west of 21st Street and today I am recommitting to that request even further. The VBGCQ will continue to be a beacon of hope for the youth of western Queens and our new building will be a lighthouse burning bright signaling to our young people that this is home.”
Constantinides noted that the past year has been a trying time for him and his family, as he and his wife contracted COVID-19 last year and are still recovering. He has been candid about the toll the virus has taken on his own family and the long-term effects it will have on many more survivors (or COVID long-haulers) and community members.
In a lengthy Facebook post on Tuesday, March 29, Constantinides recounted the “dark hours” in April, when he was diagnosed with COVID pneumonia, with the virus eventually damaging his nervous system, digestive tract and mental health.
“COVID has taken a deep and harrowing toll on all of us but especially our young people,” he said. “I hope our work can help see their way through this pandemic and ignite their spark for the greatness inside each of them.”
Constantinides told QNS he is feeling much better — he said he’s eating pizza and smiling again — thanks in part to the support and holistic treatment he received at Mount Sinai Queens hospital’s post-COVID care.
“We need to have that kind of care available to every New Yorker,” he said.
The native Astorian said he’ll be working at the Council until his last day, with hearings scheduled for two bills next week. He’ll then go right into his new position at the Variety Boys and Girls Club.
“It’s been the honor of my life to serve the residents of my neighborhood,” he said. “I’m not leaving, this is just a new chapter.”