Eight months before he was set to vacate his term-limited seat, Queens Councilmember Costa Constantinides abruptly announced he'll be leaving office on April 9th. While the timing of his resignation will not trigger a special election since it's too close to the June 22nd primary, a wonky provision in the city charter would immediately allow the November general election winner to finish out Constantinides' term before assuming their term in January 2022. He says the decision was a personal one.
"To leave this job is very, very difficult for me," Constantinides, a Democrat, told Gothamist in an email on Wednesday, explaining he's accepted a job as CEO of the Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens, which services 4,000 children yearly. It's the same social services group where his mother had worked years before.
"I know I still have the opportunity to serve the community that I love so much and that gives me a renewed sense of hope and opportunity to do that," Constantinides added.
Constantinides has represented the 22nd Council District—covering the neighborhoods of Astoria, Woodside, East Elmhurst, and parts of Jackson Heights–since 2013. Last year, he unsuccessfully ran for Queens borough president but lost to Donovan Richards. He ran on a platform that sought to address climate change in New York City, which has in recent years been met with dangerous storms, including Tropical Storm Isaias, which barreled into New York City last summer.
Constantinides' departure will not trigger a special election since it comes less than 90 days before a scheduled primary but does provide his successor with even greater time in office.
Under the city charter's archaic rules, the winner of the November general election would immediately take office to finish out the vacant seat. Because the Democratic primary election winner is often the victor in the November election—given the overwhelming number of Democrats over Republicans in the city—they will be able to begin their tenure in November instead of January. Though City Hall did not return a request for comment, Sarah Steiner, an election lawyer, interpreted the rule as such.
In the meantime, Constantinides' district office will remain virtually open via the constituent services unit.
So far, seven Democratic candidates are running for the seat including program director Leonardo Bullaro, freelance production assistant Edwin DeJesus, Catherina Gioino, executive director for Global Kids Evie Hantzopoulos, and defense attorney Tiffany Cabán, who catapulted to political stardom after nearly winning the seat for Queens District Attorney, losing to Katz by the narrowest of margins.
Constantinides has already endorsed Cabán for office, several months after his chief of staff, Nick Roloson, had dropped out of the race. The endorsement adds to a slew of support for Caban, who has received backing from the United Federation of Teachers union, 32BJ, and the New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, which has increased its foothold in the political scene in recent years.
He hopes his successor, or any other elected member of the council, would address climate change and methods to make the city more resilient.
"Last year we had more named storms than any time in my memory," Constantinides said. "And usually I'm proud of my Greek heritage, but last year we went through the Greek alphabet."