ASTORIA – More than 150 residents turned out on a cold January night to hear City Council member Costas Constantinides present his first State of the District address at PS 151, and they appeared to have all come away very pleased with their new representative.
Constantinides was introduced by Dr. Samantha Maisonet, the school’s principal, whom he thanked for her work on behalf of the students.
He told the guests “just about 1 year ago today I stood before the crowd at my inauguration and we began the discussion of what we could accomplish together…Tonight, we come together once again to renew our conversation.”
He emphasized the area’s dynamism and diversity as well as the change it is undergoing, which increases the importance of his commitment to keep its residents informed and included in the decision making process.
Park and playground improvements, school upgrades and the expansion and modernization of at Mount Sinai Hospital, especially the 2.1 million dollars for a new state-of-the-art PET scan machine the Council helped secure were among the things he highlighted.
Told that 150 people braved a cold January night to hear his speech, Constantinides said “I am pretty humbled by the hold thing. This is an amazing community and I never forget the gravity of what it means to represent it.”
“In our year we have had some good successes and now we imagine what Astoria can be, especially our waterfront,” he said.
Constantinides invited the guests to share his vision for “New York City of 2050” with a presentation founded on three core principles: sustainability, engagement, and inclusiveness.
Sustainability for him means: “Parents should be able to put their children to bed without worrying that their homes will be taken from them by rising rents or by rising seas.”
It also means transforming the way the City’s buildings receive and use their energy. The environment has long been a priority for Constantinides. Among his personal legislative initiatives is Local Law 66 of 2014,” which requires an 80 percent carbon emissions reduction by the year 2050.
This year his bills include Intro. 609, which will provide incentives for geothermal systems in buildings citywide. He is also overseeing a study of the use of solar panels on local schools.
His commitment to inclusiveness is reflected in the role he played in last year’s agreement on the Astoria Cove development where 27 percent of the project’s housing will be designated as affordable.
He said he will continue to work with developers for the best outcomes for all, and his speech also focused on what can be done for homeowners and small business owners.
“I am proud to co-sponsor a bill that would provide some welcome tax relief by reinstating the 500 dollar tax rebate from years past….We also need to end the back door water tax that hits our homeowners the hardest,” he said.
Regarding engagement, Constantinides said he is especially proud to have brought “Participatory Budgeting to this district for the first time, allowing residents to offer their suggestions for how best to spend 1 million dollars in capital funds…You’ll have the opportunity to vote on your favorite projects in April,” he said.
He is also excited that “As part of the Astoria Cove development, Astoria will be connected by ferry to other parts of the city for the first time in nearly a century” and is working to get Astoria its own Eco-Docks, which “give students an opportunity to get close enough to the water that they can learn about biology, environmental science, and chemistry.”
State Senator Michael Gianaris told TNH “Costa had a wonderful first year… We are really proud of things he has accomplished and we are looking forward to great things.”
Regarding district project he said a new library will be built on the waterfront in Long Island City and added, “I am working with Governor Cuomo on getting the AirTrain to La Guardia airport with the minimal disruption to Astoria.”
New York State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas said “Costa did a fantastic job laying out his vision for the future of the community. Everybody was engaged and was very supportive not only of his ideas but also the passion with which he goes about his work.”
Asked about her priorities this year, she said, “I am always looking to make sure we have legislation to support working families and working mothers… I am also working on initiatives to make college more affordable for our kids.”
Mr. Pavlou, whose roots are in Tripoli, was pleased with the event. He does not know Constantinides personally, but he told TNH “I voted for him and I like the guy…he is the best.”