Costa Constantinides leaving Council to head Variety
BY NICHOLAS LOUD
Veteran City Council member Costa Constantinides is stepping down from his position. Starting on April 9, he will take the post of chief executive officer of the Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens, am Astoria nonprofit dedicated to serving the community’s youth.
Constantinides served on the City Council for over seven years, passing 44 bills and serving on multiple committees. He expressed satisfaction with his work, particularly regarding sustainability and other measures that directly benefit children.
“I’m very proud of my work for the Council,” Constantinides said in an interview with this paper. “We’ve either renovated or funded half of the parks in the district, and I’m leaving a legacy of sustainability in the neighborhood.”
Constantinides sees his transition to the Boys & Girls Club as a continuation of his work.
“Investing in kids is the best way to invest in the neighborhood,” he said. “My goal at the club is to help the organization grow and thrive.”
Constantinides, who was born and raised in Queens, has a long history with the Boys & Girls Club. His mother worked at the club when he was young, and both of his children took part in programs there.
Constantinides explained the impact the Boys & Girls Club can have on a young person’s life by comparing it to the recent Pixar movie Soul.
“The club can provide that ‘spark’ to kids in the community, especially those from the Woodside and Astoria Houses,” he said.
The Boys & Girls Club is a national organization with branches across the country, but the Queens branch has a particularly storied history.
“We’ve been here for 65 years and have seen generations of families pass through our doors,” said executive director Andy Rodriquez. “We want to be around for another 165 years to pass the torch to another generation.”
The Queens club offers career development and exposure, enrichment activities, and tutoring services. The club has ambitious goals for growth, including a plan to replace their current facility with a new building. Construction is set to begin in 2022 with an estimated completion in 2024.
The new building will include two swimming pools, multiple basketball courts, theater spaces, and the borough’s only observatory on the roof. Constantinides said the facility will be 100 percent sustainable .
“This building will be a lighthouse,” he said, “a beacon for young people in the community.”
While construction is underway, the club will continue operating all of its programming in a senior living facility around the corner from the site. The emphasis on sustainability is even more critical in the midst of the pandemic.
“The virus has preyed upon social inequities,” sais Constantinides, who was diagnosed with COVID last year. “Forty percent of the Astoria Houses don’t have internet access. It’s an education gap that the Boys & Girls Club can help confront.”
During the pandemic, the club continued all of its programming virtually, and recently reopened for some in-person activities. Leaving the City Council was no easy choice for Constantinides.
“I really struggled with this,” he said. “It was a very difficult decision to make, but there are other ways to do public service without being an elected official.
“I hope the residents of this community understand how this is a continuation of my work,” he added. “I’m invested in this community, and I have an opportunity to help 4,000 kids.”
“His leadership in Astoria, and passion for our mission makes Costa a perfect fit to lead our team as our top executive,” said board president Walter Sanchez. “We are in the midst of a $200 million expansion project to bring state-of-the-art educational, recreation, and career training amenities to the community, and Costa has the vision and skills to lead us to the finish line.”