District 22 Candidate

Evie Hantzopoulos

Campaign Website: electevie.com

NYC Campaign Finance Board – funds raised.

 

Queens Post Questionnaire 

What Office/District are you running for and why? I’m running for City Council in District 22 to be in service to the community that I love and bring my experience, energy, and deep commitment to equity, inclusion, and justice to the City Council.  The decision to run was not easy. I love my current job and have dedicated my life to empowering youth from underserved communities and supporting them in their efforts to develop leadership, social action, and civic skills. I have three daughters, a mom with Alzheimers, and a community that counts on me. Juggling all this isn’t easy, but many women, including those of us in the “sandwich generation” do it, because in this country our systems rely on the unpaid labor of women to do the work that government ignores. And this is also a key reason why I’m running.
Through my work with young people, years of community work and organizing, deep community connections with diverse constituencies, my working-class immigrant background, and knowledge of the issues most affecting my district, I’m well positioned to represent and engage my constituents, include them, and work with them to generate effective solutions. The decisions facing our next City Council will be profound, and the hard work ahead will include serious decisions whose solutions must be grounded in budget justice and provide our communities with what they need to thrive. I’m running to bring my experience, humanity and energy to the New York City Council, where I’ll represent everyone in District 22 and fight for truly affordable housing, equitable education, small business and the arts, and an environment that is clean, healthy and sustainable.
How long have you lived or worked in the District and how active are you in the community right now? I moved to Astoria 22 years ago, and immediately became involved in the community as an organizer, parent leader, and educator. Since 2010, I have served on Community Board 1 in Queens, where I chair the Housing Committee and serve on the zoning committee and have advocated for truly affordable housing, sustainable transportation and infrastructure, and greater community engagement. I have led the charge to reject rezonings that will exacerbate gentrification and have organized with neighbors and groups like Astoria Tenant Union and Justice for All Coalition.
With a small team of residents in Astoria, in March 2020 I co-founded Frontline Foods Queens (originally Queens Feeds Hospitals) which has paid local restaurants over $700,000 to make over 50,000 meals for frontline workers at six hospitals each day in Queens at the height of the crisis, and since the summer, to food insecure communities across Western Queens (including NYCHA developments, the Bangladeshi community, and food pantries).
I am a founding team member of the Astoria Mutual Aid Network and help organize community building days at Astoria Houses and Queensbridge Houses respectively among other support. During the gas outages at Astoria Houses this past fall, I partnered with residents to provide home cooked meals from neighbors across Western Queens every week, because the residents could not prepare their own food.  This was modeled after Astoria Cooks for the Rockaways, which I spearheaded after Hurricane Sandy to set up street catering sites that served over 4,000 home cooked meals over months while the area was left stranded.
I have worked on myriad education issues as a parent leader, most notably the issue of elevated train high decibel noise at PS85Q organizing parents to get the MTA to replace the tracks and switches with ones that would mitigate noise levels, obtaining a $1 million electrical wiring upgrade, and procuring (through our local electeds) energy-efficient air conditioners so that when the warm weather came, teachers did not have to open the windows and stop their instruction. At PS 85 and PS 122 I helped fundraise and spearhead the development of a native plant and pollinator garden at one school, a children’s garden and science botanical program at another, and partnerships with such groups as The Hort, Greening Western Queens, and the Trust for Public Land.As Executive Director of Global Kids, I have worked to bring a Global Kids youth-run Green Market to District 22 on Steinway Street with GrowNYC, created and implemented a summer climate justice internship program with Long Island City HS and William Cullen Bryant High School, supported substantive census outreach work, led by young people, for the 2020 Census, and testified in the NYC Council on equity, class size, and more. Lastly, I co-spearheaded the creation of the 31st Avenue Open Street and am a founding member of the Astoria Urban Ecology Alliance, which will work to transform The Sitting Area on Hoyt Avenue into a community garden and ecological learning space, and coached sports for St. Demetrios.
What is your current or most recent occupation? I am the Executive Director of Global Kids, a non-profit that educates, activates, and inspires youth from underserved communities to take action on critical issues facing our world and prepares them to become community leaders and global citizens.
What would you advocate for in terms of the future of Riker’s Island? I voted as a Community Board One member for the full and permanent closing of Rikers as an incarceration site, and I champion the transformation of Rikers into a public renewable energy site. Renewable Rikers is a prime opportunity to use public land for public good and to remove polluting energy infrastructure in our city and district, especially dirty peaker plants located near lower income and Black and brown communities and cause high rates of asthma and respiratory illness.  This would not only update our power grid to address climate change and health issues, but would also provide high-demand, well-paying union jobs, which would further strengthen the city’s economy and provide a path to fast growing working class jobs. Due to the toxic waste on the site, it would be a challenging site to build social or affordable housing.
What were your thoughts on the rezoning proposal at 30-02 Newtown Avenue in Astoria? I was opposed to the rezoning proposal at 30-02 Newtown Avenue and voted not to approve as a community board member. First, the project does not provide adequate affordable housing, at levels most needed in our community, and further floods our community with luxury housing that causes surrounding rents to rise and displace our neighbors. Second, the details of the community facility to be in the basement were vague, and the developers misled the public about why the non-profit theater that was initially going to be a tenant (at $9000/month which they did not disclose) pulled out. Third, this location is in a transit rich area and the parking garage for residents will only encourage cars, worsen traffic, and contribute to pollution. Fourth, the developers will get decades of tax abatements for building luxury housing that is already profitable even though their land value will skyrocket after the rezoning. Fifth, there is no union labor agreement. Sixth, this area was already rezoned approximately 10 years ago to give developers more height and density. Seventh, the plans that the developers submitted are non-binding; they could go even higher than the 11 story building proposed and are not bound to any promises or plans, other than the zoning parameters and Mandatory Inclusionary Housing minimum.
Do you think the rezoning process (ULURP) is working? If not, how would you change it? ULURP is a disingenuous process for community engagement, thoughtful land use, and zoning change, and has overwhelmingly benefited large developers and fueled speculation. It is developer-led, opaque, and community needs are an afterthought or not even addressed. City Planning enables this, and too often Council Members rubber stamp the developer’s requests, never pushing back on such items as affordable housing options/income bands, public open space, potential for gentrification and more. Community boards are often not equipped to properly respond to ULURP, and the timetable for community board review is too short. Public notification is minimal and too late. Also, developers can make promises or show plans for what they want to build, but do not have to actually follow them or build the project, so the non-binding nature means that in the end, something different than what was promised can be built as long as it fits within the zoning.
The recent ULURP changes through the ballot box 5 question in 2019 were woefully inadequate. Any land use or zoning changes should be driven by the community, and part of a larger community plan to address inequity, the housing crisis, working-class manufacturing space protection, and a liveable community. I’ll fight to create a community development plan and meaningful process to include those most affected by development, displacement, and gentrification, with those most affected identifying the community needs and terms of the plan, without interference from developers, whose main interest is profit. Additional components need to be added to the CEQR and EIS processes, including expanding the area examined, examining the rezoning in regards to racial and class displacement potential, and impact on climate change. Plans should be binding. The Planning Together proposal by Speaker Corey Johnson is problematic and fails to incorporate meaningful community engagement and response.
Do you believe in member deference when it comes to rezoning? Council Members should always eye rezonings as an opportunity to provide critical needs for the community, not enormous profit for developers, and use their influence to ensure any rezonings get maximum community benefits and truly affordable housing. We must ask: Is the Council Member beholden to real estate or other interests?  Is the Council Member truly listening to and centering those who live in the community and are threatened with displacement? Will the project undermine small business, manufacturing, infrastructure, and working class jobs?  I don’t believe in automatic council member deference, but I do believe we must elect people like me who have demonstrated they will fight against big corporate real estate that has had free reign for years.
Should the city council cut police funding? If so, by how much? Much of what the police are called to respond to are situations that would be better served by other professionals trained in mental health, social work, mediation, and other areas. I would shift NYPD away from non-violent activities, such as responding to mental health crises, outreach to people experiencing homelessness, traffic violations, noise complaints, etc., and redirect those interventions to groups like the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene, Department of Homeless Services, and Department of Transportation. I would also call for the establishment of a new Response Corps – local teams of trained professionals who are versed in trauma informed practice, restorative justice practices, and social work, to act as community care triage points.  I envision a public safety system that truly protects all people and reduces crime through investing in services and initiatives that have been shown to reduce it, and whose driving principle is restorative justice. As such, I support reallocating $2B of the NYPD budget to other agencies and services to provide care for our communities as stated above, and provide funding for housing, education, job assistance, healthcare and supporting pathways to employment, especially those who have faced harm.
Do you think non-citizens (including undocumented immigrants) should be able to vote in New York City elections? New York City is home to approximately 3.1 million immigrants. NYC residents, whether they are citizens, green card holders, DACA recipients, or undocumented, are part of the political community in which they live and contribute to our community, economy, and tax revenue. Currently, there are many barriers to obtaining citizenship and in the meantime, people who live and work here want to be more civically engaged. If we believe in democracy, we should afford non-citizens the right to vote in municipal elections. In addition, I support Intro 1867 which was proposed in the City Council.
How would you select community board members and is the current system working? I voted in favor of term limits when it was proposed on the ballot and feel that will facilitate new leadership and rotation of community board members coming in, better reflecting evolving district composition. However, it will be years before we see the terms limits come into effect. In the meantime, as a Council Member, I would examine the demographics of the community and would seek to increase underrepresented groups and remove members who are inactive. In general, community boards are not currently reflective of the demographics and we must ensure we have all groups represented equitably on the board, including youth, who represent the rich diversity and perspectives in our district.
Are you an advocate for protected bicycle lanes in the district and, if so, where do you think they should go? Yes, as a mother whose children bike and as a sometimes driver, protected bike lanes benefit everyone and save lives. I would love for all bike lanes to be protected bike lanes, but the most pressing need currently is for additional East / West lanes. We have them on several North / South streets (Vernon Boulevard, 28th, Crescent Street, and 35th / 36th streets, but really only one East / West on 31st Avenue. Connectivity is a huge issue, and we need protected bike lanes that would allow cyclists to bike to La Guardia airport and the Flushing Bay Promenade safely. Ideally, it would be good to be able to bike from Astoria to Jackson Heights all on one protected lane, and build out a comprehensive, safe bike lane infrastructure that provides safe conditions and connects all the neighborhoods in our city.
What is your view on the transportation network in Queens? What would you do to improve it? Focusing on strengthening our public transport and transportation alternatives must be a priority. I will push to increase  bus service to transit deserts and lower income communities, create transit corridors similar to the 14th Street busway, and implement bus rapid transit. I will also make cycling safer and more appealing by expanding the bike lane network (with an emphasis on protected bike lanes), increasing the amount of bike parking, and keeping the sidewalks and bike lanes clear during inclement weather as roads are for cars. Bus network redesign is a necessity. Speed and reliability are huge factors for potential riders and without them, we will fail to instill confidence to residents and increase ridership. We must seize every opportunity to meet sustainability guidelines and should also ensure school buses do as well in order to contract with vendors. While the city does not control the MTA, we must push for better subway service and stop any fare hikes. I would expand the Fair Fares program, and fight for our state and federal government to provide additional funding. Ultimately we need to fully implement Vision Zero to eliminate traffic deaths, and adopt a Complete Streets approach so that users of all ages and abilities have safe travel and access despite ages and abilities regardless of mode of transportation.  People with disabilities face tremendous obstacles navigating our city. I would ensure our public transportation provides meaningful access in present operations and in the MTA’s 2024 capital plan to ensure it meets the needs of all New Yorkers: prioritizing elevator installation/repair, ramps, Braille/Large print signage, real time communication with captions, ASL, and provide real-time information on elevator outages. Access-A-Ride does not provide adequate service and must be revamped so that it is easier to use and more efficient, and expanded to provide vouchers that can be used for taxi cabs.
I will also advocate to permanently close traffic at the Newtown Triangle and Shore Boulevard, and look to create small public parks/public squares as per the Barcelona model which results in low-traffic, pedestrian-friendly streets. Lastly, thoroughfares like Astoria Boulevard and Hoyt Avenue need a major revamping to reduce traffic and provide a more welcoming environment for all to use.