April 9, 2014
By Joe Maniscalco
Queens, NY – New York City Councilman Costa Constantinides [D-District 22] is serving his freshman term in office as part of the progressive wave that easily swept Mayor Bill de Blasio into Gracie Mansion – but the legislator from Astoria says that there is still a lot of pressure on progressives to get it right.
“There is a lot of pressure,” Constantinides told LaborPress this week. “If we squander this opportunity, the voters might not give us another one for some time.”
The Queens councilman who broke the Vallone dynasty with his win over a crowded field of candidates last fall, is a proponent of responsible development and believes developers benefitting from the public’s help need to commit to established labor standards and affordable housing.
“We want to make sure that there is a buy-in for everyone,” Constantinides said. “Part of responsible development means living wage jobs. The City Council has made that a priority.”
The multi-million-dollar Hallets Point development project – with its all-too-familiar plan for thousands of new units of luxury housing – will be a major test for the new councilman. But Constantinides says he will not be alone in the fight to make sure that working families in his community benefit from the project along with deep-pocketed developers.
“We have great neighborhood groups,” the councilman said. “It’s not just going to be me holding [developers] accountable.”
Constantinides – an attorney and community activist who graduated Cum Laude from Queens College – has also been at the forefront of 32BJ’s ongoing fight on behalf of low-wage workers at LaGuardia Airport.
After a long struggle, he says that the “needle is beginning to move” in the airport workers’ favor.
“When you invest in workers, you invest in the community,” Constantinides said. “Too many large organizations forget that. It’s like they live a vacuum.”
Regarding the trove of outstanding municipal contracts that must still be addressed, the councilman says that the city spent the last 12 years under the Bloomberg administration “driving out the middle class.”
“All these union groups are not the enemy,” Constantinides said. “I don’t know when they became the enemy.”
With the right oversight, the councilman is convinced that all of the changes planned for his Queens district, will be a boon for working men and women living in the area.
“We have real opportunities,” Constantinides said.
Some of those opportunities also include the construction of additional schools, a new supermarket, restoration of ferry service to Manhattan – and the use of cleaner turbines at area power plants.
“It will be like taking 100,000 cars off the road,” the councilman said.