Greek-American Evie Hantzopoulos is running for the New York City Council in District 22 in the Borough of Queens, which includes Astoria, the area of Queens that is most Greek.
She is a community builder, advocate, and progressive leader who has dedicated her life to social justice, youth empowerment, and working towards a just, equitable, and sustainable world. Now she is running for the seat previously held by Costa Constantinidis.
Evie Hantzopoulos was born and raised in Peabody, MA. In 1990 she moved to Brooklyn, studied journalism and international relations and the she attended NYU, where she earned a Master’s in educational theater.
The Greek-American candidate spoke with TNH about her candidacy in District 22.
The National Herald: You studied journalism and theater. How did you come up with politics?
Evie Hantzopoulos: I don’t even know how I ended up in politics. I always wanted to get involved with a lot if things. I worked for 25 years for Global Kids, a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate, activate, and inspire youth from underserved communities to take action on critical issues facing our world.
We have supported thousands of youth in New York City schools as they gain knowledge and skills in leadership, human rights, activism, and civics. Many GK alums now are running for office, holding leadership positions in their professions, becoming activists, and helping to shape political policy.
TNH: For the last few months you have focused on the campaign. The Democratic primary takes place on June 22 and you are running against Leonardo Bullaro, Tiffany Caban, Catherina Gioino, Nicholas Velkov, and John Ciafone. What is the prognosis?
EH: I feel good. I am optimistic. People advocate my candidacy. Every day I am going door to door. I have a team that also helping me, especially the weekends and we have around 15 volunteers. But weekdays I am also going out by myself – in Astoria, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, and Woodside.
TNH: What are people telling you that they want to change most in the area?
EH: Residents of District 22 are worried about housing. Better rents and lower taxes for homeowners. When I first moved to Astoria 22 years ago I could afford to buy a house, even if I didn’t have that much money. I was working in a non-profit and my husband was in college. Today I can’t afford to buy half a house, not even one fourth of one. And this is not good because Astoria will change and we don’t want that. A lot of people have moved out. We have younger people coming in, which is good, but we lost a lot of people who couldn’t afford to stay. It was too expensive for a family.
TNH: Is there any plan for small businesses that have closed during the pandemic? Students also need help.
Another subject that Evie wants to improve are education and small businesses, both heated from pandemic.
EH: Last year was very difficult for students, teachers, and parents. As for small businesses – 30% closed for good. We love small businesses in Astoria and we don’t want the neighborhood to change.
I want to ensure that the hardest hit businesses receive direct support, including women and minority-owned businesses. Also, I want to pass the Small Business Jobs Survival Act and penalize commercial landlords who drive out small businesses in favor of chain stores and bank branches.
Also, there are a lot of artists working on Broadway and elsewhere that lost their jobs and they don’t have a place for rehearsals. They need space”.
TNH: Pollution is another subject that concerns the residents of Astoria. What are your thoughts about that?
EH: A lot of people have asthma. We have the Grant Central, the Triboro Bridge, Con Edison, La Guardia airport. The air quality is not good. It’s a lot of work but I’m used to it and I will do whatever it takes to improve the neighborhood. A man asked me one day: “If you get elected how will you manage with so much work? I have three children and I worked all my life. I can do it.”
TNH: Is Astoria safe?
EH: Everyone wants to feel safe. Crime prevention and public safety begin at the sources of crime. So, I want to invest in our communities and make them truly safe by expanding community-based public safety alternatives instead of over policing. I believe in fully funding our schools, and increasing job skills and employment programs by diverting at least $2 billion dollars from the annual NYPD budget into these projects
TNH: You are presenting your program in five languages – Greek, English, Spanish, Arab, and Bangla – something that none of the other candidates can do,
EH: I want everybody to read my positions, and to know who I am. We live in a multicultural neighborhood.