Greek-American Candidate Poised to Make History

Costa Constantinides at the Astoria Columbus Day Parade 2013. (Photo via candidate's Facebook page)

Costa Constantinides at the Astoria Columbus Day Parade in 2013. (Photo via candidate’s Facebook page)

Costa Constantinides “personally knocked” on 12,000 doors to win the primary race for City Council. Whether that’s a record or not, he could make history in more certain terms come November.

The Mexican-American community saw a historic win on primary day. Will Greek-Americans have their own celebration on Election Day? The 39-year Vallone family dynasty over City Council District 22, which encompasses Astoria, Long Island City and parts of Jackson Heights, is coming to an end. Now, Democratic candidate Costa Constantinides has a good chance of not only winning on November 5, but also of becoming the first Greek-American – and specifically Greek Cypriot, the ethnic Greek population in Cyprus – in the City Council.

Greek News‘ Apostolos Zoupaniotis interviewed the lawyer, who has lived in Astoria his entire life. His mother Helene was born in the Bronx, while his father and grandparents immigrated from Cyprus.

Costa Constantinides’ father Andreas immigrated to New York with his parents Kosta and Froso in 1952, from the Cypriot village Asgata. His grandfather Kosta was a carpenter but in New York he worked as dishwasher and short order cook. Froso Constantinides worked in the garment industry, putting buttons on coats.

Constantinides attributes his Democratic primary victory (55.8 percent versus 22.1 for both John Ciafone and Constantinos Prentzas) partly to the support of Greek-American officials. Constantinides himself is no stranger to politics, having been elected Democratic district leader in 2009. He also served as deputy chief of staff for Councilman James Gennaro.

Q. You won a commanding victory in the primary against two opponents. How does it feel?

A. It was very humbling. I am gratified with the result. I had great support from great folks, especially in the Greek Community. We had the support of Senator Michael Gianaris, who is an icon in the neighborhood and the first Greek to be elected in a state office in New York. Also the support of Assembly member Aravella Simotas, the first Greek woman elected in state office in New York. We are forming a great team.

While the City Council seat for District 22 has been occupied by a Democrat for decades, Constantinides is not letting himself fall victim to complacency.

I have worked in politics for a long time and never take anything for granted. I think we should also send a message. I am very proud to potentially be the first Greek American in the New York City Council. I am very proud to potentially be the first Greek Cypriot to get elected in the City and probably the State of New York. This opportunity can only happen if the people come out and vote November 5th. I am not ready to celebrate yet and we are not popping any champagne out. We understand the work that’s ahead of us and that will be realized only if I get elected.

The Greek population in Astoria has waned since they heyday of past decades but the Greek roots are not budging. The western Queens neighborhood could see the possibility of seeing a Greek trifecta – Gianaris, Simotas and Constantinides – in a few weeks.

We have a real opportunity to have three elected officials of Greek heritage in our neighborhood. It’s a big change from where we were thirteen years ago when Mike Gianaris was first elected. I want to do our community proud and I will work very hard for that. And make sure at the end of the day that the people of our community feel positive for the choice that they have made by electing me.

Constantinides is running to fill the seat now occupied by Peter Vallone Jr., who is term limited. Vallone replaced his father, Peter Vallone Sr., who served  in the Council from 1974 to 2001. Constantinides will face Republican candidate Daniel Peterson on November 5. Visit Greek News to read the rest of the interview in which he discusses, among other issues, stop-and-frisk, traffic tickets, Bill de Blasio and small homeowners and business owners.

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