Astoria community leader appointed new executive director of Queens Botanical Garden

Evie Hantzapoulos
Astoria resident Evie Hantzapoulos has been appointed as the new executive director of Queens Botanical Garden. (Photo by Wichuda McConnell)

Evie Hantzopoulos, an Astoria resident who serves on Community Board 1, has been appointed the new executive director of Queens Botanical Garden (QBG) and will assume the role on Jan. 24. 

Hantzopoulos succeeds Susan Lacerte, who retired in September 2021 following a 27-year tenure in the position. Her appointment comes as QBG prepares to break ground on its new, state-of-the-art Education Center this year. 

“Queens Botanical Garden is such a unique and special place,” Hantzopoulos said. “Now more than ever, access to public, open space is essential to our well-being. I am honored to have the opportunity to build on the authenticity and expertise of the institution’s staff and community members and lead the garden in reaching its full potential — as a place where people of all backgrounds and abilities can appreciate and learn about the environment, engage in the arts, experience innovative programming, celebrate culture, build community and make their own lasting connections.”

Hantzopoulos has been an Astoria resident since 1999, and has been actively involved in community affairs. Hantzopoulos co-founded Frontline Foods Queens in March 2020, which has provided over 60,000 meals from local restaurants to frontline hospital workers, food pantries and NYCHA residents across Queens. 

She is also a founding member of Astoria Mutual Aid Network, the Astoria Urban Ecology Alliance and the 31st Avenue Open Street. This past election cycle, Hantzopoulos ran in the District 22 City Council Democratic primary, finishing second in a six-person race. 

Hantzopoulos is an award-winning educator and nonprofit leader with extensive experience in organizational leadership, strategic planning, fundraising and program development. Until recently, she served 11 years as executive director of Global Kids Inc., a nonprofit organization that develops youth leaders through dynamic global education and leadership development programs. During her tenure, Hantzopoulos led the organization to unprecedented programmatic and financial growth — expanding its programs to Washington, D.C., and Houston; growing the organization’s budget from $3.6 million to $7.6 million; and receiving the Non-Profit New York Excellence in Overall Management Award in 2020. 

Prior to this role, Hantzopoulos served as the Global Kids deputy director/director of programs for 14 years, overseeing the development, supervision and expansion of programs in New York City as well as professional development programs for teachers and youth workers nationally and internationally.

Rebecca Wolf, QBG interim executive director/assistant director and director of education and garden operations, said Hantzopoulos’ “dedication to building exclusive, equitable and sustainable organizations and communities completely aligns with the mission of the garden as being the place where plants, people and cultures meet.” 

Upon her appointment, the QBG board of trustees say they’re thrilled to announce Hantzopoulos as the garden’s next executive director. 

“Evie’s proven leadership commitment to Queens is the perfect fit for our garden. As we prepare to break ground on our Education Center later this year, we are confident that Evie will be the right person to lead our organization into this exciting new era and keep Queens Botanical Garden on the cutting edge of what it means to be an urban ecological garden in today’s world,” said Raymond Jasen, QBG board chair. 

This fall, QBG will begin construction on the education center. With an innovative design, four classrooms, a teaching kitchen, an education solarium, a green roof and space for indoor and outdoor programming, the center and its surrounding landscapes will allow for increased visitation to QBG and create exciting new educational opportunities. The building is scheduled to open in late 2024.

“The garden is an exceptional place and the new education center is a game changer,” Hantzopoulos said. “I can’t wait to get started.”