Jan. 18, 2022 By Christian Murray
The Queens Botanical Garden has named an Astoria resident and Community Board 1 member as its new executive director.
Evie Hantzopoulos, who will start Jan. 24, will take over from Susan Lacerte, who retired in September after a 27-year tenure in the position.
Hantzopoulos’ appointment comes at a time when the 39-acre garden in Flushing prepares to break ground on its new state-of-the art Education Center this year.
She comes to the position as an award-winning educator and non-profit leader with extensive experience in organizational leadership, strategic planning, fundraising, and program development.
Until recently, she served for 11 years as Executive Director of Global Kids, a non-profit organization that develops youth leaders through dynamic global education and leadership development programs. Prior to this role, Hantzopoulos served as the Global Kids Deputy Director/Director of Programs for 14 years.
“Evie is an educator at heart,” said Rebecca Wolf, QBG Interim Executive Director / Assistant Director and Director of Education and Garden Operations. “Her dedication to building inclusive, equitable, and sustainable organizations and communities completely aligns with the mission of the Garden as being the place where plants, people, and cultures meet.”
Hantzopoulos, who has lived in Astoria since 1999, is actively involved in community affairs and is the chair of the Housing Committee on Community Board 1. She co-founded Frontline Foods Queens in March 2020, which has provided over 60,000 meals from local restaurants to frontline hospital workers, food pantries, and NYCHA residents across Queens.
She is also a founding member of Astoria Mutual Aid Network, the Astoria Urban Ecology Alliance, and the 31st Avenue Open Street.
Hantzopolous ran to represent the 22nd Council District in the Democratic primary last year. She finished second in a six-person race. Tiffany Cabán won the seat.
“Queens Botanical Garden is such a unique and special place,” Hantzopoulos said. “Now more than ever, access to public, open space is essential to our well-being. I am honored to have the opportunity to build on the authenticity and expertise of the institution’s staff and community members and lead the Garden in reaching its full potential – as a place where people of all backgrounds and abilities can appreciate and learn about the environment, engage in the arts, experience innovative programming, celebrate culture, build community, and make their own lasting connections.”
Raymond Jasen, who is the chair of the QBG board, said Hantzopoulos’ experience as a Queens organizer and strong background in education made her the right person to assume the position.
“The Board of Trustees is thrilled to announce Evie Hantzopoulos as QBG’s next Executive Director,” Jasen said. “Evie’s proven leadership and commitment to Queens are the perfect fit for our Garden. As we prepare to break ground on our Education Center later this year, we are confident that Evie will be the right person to lead our organization into this exciting new era and keep Queens Botanical Garden on the cutting edge of what it means to be an urban botanical garden in today’s world.”
In fall 2022, QBG will begin construction on its new Education Center. With an innovative design, four classrooms, a teaching kitchen, an education solarium, a green roof, and space for indoor and outdoor programming, the Education Center and its surrounding landscapes will allow for increased visitation to the Garden and create exciting new educational opportunities. The building is scheduled to open in late 2024.
“The Garden is an exceptional place and the new Education Center is a game changer,” said Hantzopoulos. “I can’t wait to get started.”