Costa Constantinides for City Council
New York City Council District 22 in NY http://www.votecosta.com
4105 Newtown Road
Primary Election Date: 2013-09-10 General Election Date: 2013-11-05
Who am I?
I am a grassroots community organizer, progressive Democratic district leader, a husband and father, and a lifelong Astoria resident.
for the last seven years, I’ve worked for the New York City Council under Councilmembers Darlene Mealy and James F. Gennaro. I’m currently the Deputy Chief of Staff for Council Member Gennaro, the City Council’s chair of Environmental Protection. As Deputy Chief of Staff, I’ve helped on key legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to protect our wetlands, improve the water quality of our drinking supply, and on other important environmental measures.
I’ve also served as the Vice President of the Long Island City Alliance, an organization dedicated to securing responsible development and protecting quality of life. I’ve worked within the community to organize canned food drives, helped save the Grand Avenue Post Office, held rallies to fight for traffic safety, and worked with our local elected officials to ensure that Western Queens received its fair share of funding for various programs.
As President of the Queens County Young Democrats, I worked to harness the youth vote by organizing the young people of Queens who helped bring President Obama to victory in 2008. The Queens County Young Democrats have worked on campaigns throughout the borough of Queens and New York State over the past three years, registering young voters and involving them in the democratic process.
I’m also a Steering Committee Member of the New York Democratic Lawyers Council working on voter protection throughout New York State, fighting to ensure everyone who is eligible to vote and wishes to vote is not disenfranchised during elections. As the law student outreach co-chair, I organized law students throughout the state to work on important voter protection issues and coordinated their activities in several key races. In recognition of this work, the City Hall News named me one of the “Top 40 under 40 Years Old in Politics” in 2009, and New York City Council Member LeRoy Comrie also honored me that same year as one of the “Distinguished 25 under 45” in the Borough of Queens”.
During my law school career, I volunteered as a legal intern at Children’s Rights, a national advocacy organization that fights for the rights of foster children in states where the child welfare system has failed.
I’m a proud graduate of local public schools P.S. 84 and P.S. 122, as well as William Cullen Bryant High School. I graduated Cum Laude from CUNY Queens College with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and History while working full-time in retail management to put myself through school. I received my law degree from Cardozo School of Law.
Why am I running?
Astoria is my home. I was born and raised in this neighborhood, and I like to joke on the campaign trail that I have a story for every corner. I’m planning on raising my son in this neighborhood, and when he grows up, I hope that he feels comfortable enough to stay in the neighborhood too. That’s what it’s all about – I want people feeling like this is the kind of place that they can put roots down regardless of whether you’ve been here for a few days or a few decades.
I’m running for the New York City Council because of my passion for my neighborhood, my borough, and my city. Ultimately, I’ve got the experience needed to be ready to deliver results on day one. I know how the Council works, how bills and budgets are passed, and how to work with elected officials and stakeholders at every level to craft good policy for all New Yorkers.
The first is the access to healthcare. With the closings of St. John’s and Mary Immaculate Hospitals, Queens has fewer and fewer options in spite of our growing population. Thus, one of my biggest priorities is expanding Mount Sinai Hospital. Mount Sinai serves more than 250,000 western Queens residents and handles more than 50,000 cases a year, with that number having risen by around 1,000 a year for the last several years. Our local leaders, from elected officials to civic association heads and community board members, agree that this expansion is desperately needed. As it is, more and more Queens residents feel that they must cross the bridge to get adequate healthcare, and that is not acceptable. As a Councilmember, I will fight to ensure that this expansion receives swift approval and that decent access to hospital care is a reality for our community.
Secondly, western Queens and Astoria in particular have suffered greatly as a result of the air pollution from a number of sources. Recently, the City’s Community Air Survey showed higher than average concentrations of several major pollutants all throughout the district, emanating from our buildings, the highways, and our power plants. This has a serious impact on the health and wellbeing of our residents, including increased asthma rates and other respiratory problems. As a Councilmember, strong environmental policy will be another prominent point on my to-do list. I will fight to make sure that western Queens no longer has to bear the burden of dirty and harmful power plants – it’s encouraging that the Poletti plant is finally being dismantled, but we must be vigilant with the remaining plants as well. The Council has also made great strides in regulating the dirty heating oil that buildings use and the diesel fuel that powers our school buses, but I will fight to protect and strengthen these standards. Whether the issue is hydrofracking, air pollution, or encouragement of clean, sustainable technology, I pledge to be a tireless advocate for the environment and for the health of our fellow New Yorkers.
Finally, I will work to roll back this administration’s push to radically redefine our education system. Over the last year and a half, I have stood with parents and neighbors to protest the attempted closings of two local high schools as well as the attempted evisceration of a stellar Gifted and Talented program at PS 122. As Councilemember, I plan to work on fixing the things actually broken in our system, like getting rid of the trailers that some of our local schools have been holding classes in for the past decade. More than anything, we need a neighborhood-focused model for our schools that doesn’t revolve around teaching to the test. I will work with the Community Education Council, the UFT, and parents to ensure that we preserve our public education system as it is the foundation of our democracy.
My DFA Values
For me, “community” is about sharing the load. We’re all struggling to get by in our jobs, our academic pursuits, and our personal lives, and at some point, we’ve had help from a parent, a friend, a partner, or a neighbor. These connections and shared triumphs over adversity are what keep us going, and I want to build on that as a Councilmember. I want to ensure that the young risk-taker who wants to pursue their dreams doesn’t need to worry about being able to pay for their health insurance, or whether they will have to wait for hours and hours in the hallways of the Mount Sinai emergency room to see a doctor. I want to make sure that parents don’t need to fear that the honors programs at the local school that their child depends on will be arbitrarily cut. Above all, I want to see Western Queens be the kind of place where people feel that they are part of a bigger whole.
Secondly, Queens saw, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, just how vulnerable it can be. We need to deal with the reality of climate change and extreme weather patterns, and we need to have a plan in place that combines mitigation with adaptation. New York needs to do its part in the fight against global warming. While the City Council has made progress by banning the dirtiest heating oils, there is far more we can do to make our buildings, the city’s largest source of emissions, more sustainable. The city government can also do a better job of encouraging businesses and homeowners to retrofit their properties with renewable energy sources. As aide to the Council’s Environmental Protection Committee Chair, I have helped write legislation dealing with wetlands preservation, requiring the city to consider stormwater retention when landscaping, and mandating a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030. These are the things I want to build on to ensure a more secure New York.
Finally, our shared pursuit of liberty means nothing when you cannot be with the one you love and share in the benefits of society as others can. That’s why I stood shoulder to shoulder with members of my community to bring marriage equality to New York. I have never been more proud of Western Queens’ leadership than when Astoria’s vote for marriage equality flipped from “No” to “Yes,” and being part of the movement to push our neighborhood and state forward is one of the most affirming things I’ve done in public service.
My Campaign is People Powered!
One of my biggest goals in this campaign is to build a stronger and more progressive Western Queens. There are so many young people who feel disaffected and detached from politics. As we have seen time and time again, many cannot even identify their representatives at the city or state level. If we’re going to get the kind of substantive progress that young people are hoping for, this needs to change. That’s why I’m working with a number of important local progressive groups like Democracy for New York City, StreetsPAC, and the Working Families Party. These groups have a growing progressive base that cares about the issues that are important to young progressives like sensible traffic redesign and bicycle policy, LGBT equality, and opposition to environmental threats like hydrofracking. I’m also leveraging social media to reach out to the progressive grassroots. With Facebook and Twitter, our outreach can now be magnified many times over with the push of a button.
None of this matters, though, if you have no ground game. Hardly a night goes by now where I am not out knocking on doors all throughout the Astoria area. The sheer fact that a large percentage of the young people I talk to while doorknocking have never had someone come and engage them like this speaks volumes about why so many progressives are so pessimistic about politics. Regardless of technological innovations or funding differentials, this will always be the number one way to engage the grassroots, and I plan to make it my campaigning strategy as well as my governing strategy.