With his term officially ending this year and six people already vying to replace him, City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) announced Wednesday morning that he will step down effective April 9, citing family considerations.
He has accepted the position of chief executive officer of the Variety Boys and Girls Club, which is located in Long Island City.
“It’s not a decision I made quickly or lightly,” Constantinides told the Chronicle in a telephone interview on Wednesday. He said the Covid-19 outbreak has struck his family hard in the last year, and that his wife is in poor health.
“I want to be a husband; I want to be a dad,” he said. “There are many ways to perform public service.”
As to the timing and when he knew it was right, Constantinides said he has received a number of offers.
“This lined up with what I wanted to do,” he said, adding that his mother years ago worked at the club for about a year.
Constantinides was elected in 2013. Under the City Charter, as the vacancy will take place less than 90 days before the June 22 primary, the seat will remain vacant until after the general election in November, at which time his successor will be sworn in immediately rather than waiting until Jan. 1. The district covers Astoria and Rikers Island and parts of Jackson Heights, Woodside and East Elmhurst.
The councilman admitted there will be unfinished business upon his departure.
“This is New York City — there are always going to be some loose ends,” he said. “There’s always going to be more that I wanted to do. But I’m proud of what we have achieved.”
He cited an announcement coming next week about the impending removal of temporary trailers outside of PS 85 — the last ones remaining from when he took office.
In an accompanying statement, Constantinides named a number of initiatives of which he is proud.
“We have passed 44 bills in my time in the Council, including landmark legislation such as the Climate Mobilization Act, the largest emissions reduction policy enacted by any city in the world, and the Renewable Rikers Act, setting us on a path to transforming an island that has stained our city history into a renewable energy hub for the 21st century,” the statement said.
He also spoke of funding his office has secured for Mount Sinai Queens hospital.
In regard to open space, the councilman pointed to $30 million worth of investments in the district’s parks, including Astoria Park, creating a soccer field and rebuilding Charybdis Playground.
He also spoke of senior housing projects created with Catholic Charities and future units for a vacant lot on 31st Street.
He also mentioned $25 million that has been invested in Hallets Cove.
Constantinides had to correct the impression that he chose the new position for saner hours than those required of a councilmember.
“I don’t really do sane hours,” he said welcoming anyone to check with his staffers. “That’s why I was probably the worst Covid patient ever. My mind is always going 1,000 miles per hour. I had to learn how to chill out.”
And he did not have to think at all when asked about his craziest sitcom-worthy moment as an elected official.
“Dealing with coyotes and feral cats in Northern Astoria about five years ago,” he said without hesitation. “I was going to my son’s Little League game and the field was still locked — no one had been there to open it yet.” Parents did, however, see a park officer by the gate, and convinced Constantinides to go “put on my councilman face” and ask what was going on.
“She told me, ‘Coyotes,’” he said. “She was there with a paintball gun to shoot at them to keep them away so they didn’t get comfortable around humans. That was the craziest thing I’ve dealt with on the Council.”