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Who is Going to Replace Costa Constantinides? Check Out Our Candidate Forum

Six Democrats running to represent the 22nd District participated in a forum at Sunnyside Community Service Wednesday (Photo: Queens Post)

April 9, 2021 By Allie Griffin

Six candidates running to represent the 22nd District on the City Council took the stage Wednesday evening to debate topics of note to area residents.

The candidates, all Democrats, discussed a variety of topics of concern to Queens votes — everything from bike lanes to NYPD funding to community board appointments — at the forum sponsored by the Queens Post, Sunnyside Community Services and Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement.

The six are running to represent Astoria, Rikers Island and parts of Jackson Heights, Woodside and East Elmhurst. The seat is currently held by term-limited Council Member Costa Constantinides, who announced last month that he would be stepping down to take a job in the non-profit sector.

The questions largely dealt with non-profit funding, meeting the needs of senior citizens, gun violence, transit deserts and real estate development.

A question submitted by the public dealt with the scuttled Amazon deal, despite being located in District 26. Many questions were submitted by the public, including some of the lightning round questions below.

  1. 1. Would you advocate for reducing policing funding if elected?

Leonardo Bullaro: Yes

Tiffany Cabán: Yes

John Ciafone: No

Catherina Gioino: Yes

Evie Hantzopoulos: Yes

Nicholas Velkov: Yes

  1. Evie Hantzopoulos (Photo: Queens Post)

    2. Many people argue that the Gifted and Talented programs at New York City schools should be scrapped as a means to desegregate the public school system. Would you advocate for the ending this program?

Leonardo Bullaro: No

Tiffany Cabán: Yes (I was a G&T)

John Ciafone: No

Catherina Gioino: No (As a graduate, but not a simple question)

Evie Hantzopoulos: Yes (It’s not a simple yes or no question, but I would say I’d go for a school-wide enrichment model)

Nicholas Velkov: No

  1. 3. Half of the community board appointments are made by council members – should this practice continue?

Leonardo Bullaro: Yes

Tiffany Cabán: Yes (with community input)

John Ciafone: No

Catherina Gioino: No

Evie Hantzopoulos: Yes

Nicholas Velkov: No

  1. John Ciafone (Queens Post)

  2. 4. Do you think the DOT’s decision to put down protected bicycle lanes on Crescent Street was the correct one?

Leonardo Bullaro: Yes

Tiffany Cabán: Yes (But they weren’t truly protected… we needed real hard protection)

John Ciafone: No (It’s devastating for the hospital that has emergency personnel trying to get through Crescent Street)

Catherina Gioino: Yes (we need more, better protected bike lanes)

Evie Hantzopoulos: Yes (but it needs tweaks and modifications)

Nicholas Velkov: No (I like protected bike lakes, but Crescent Street didn’t do it right)

Leonardo Bullaro (Photo: Queens Post)

The next question—one of several—was submitted by members of the public. The candidates were allowed to expand on their answers for a one-minute interval.

  1. 1. Do you believe that Amazon’s last-minute decision NOT to open a headquarters in Long Island City was a victory or a missed opportunity for the district — and why?

Leonardo Bullaro: “I think one of the issues with the Amazon deal is it was done very much in secret. It was a deal that was arranged between the governor, to an extent the mayor and the leadership at Amazon… I do not think the government should be subsidizing one of the richest companies in the world.”

Tiffany Cabán: “A lot of people reduce this to jobs or no jobs and that is absolutely a false choice. I sat in the Council hearings where Amazon executives testified that they would fight unionization. We need good union jobs and we can do it with a Green New Deal across the city. We could create 100,000 green union jobs.”

John Ciafone: “I think one of the greatest tragedies in my lifetime was when we lost Amazon… We’ve lost 20,000 jobs… The peripheral businesses were devastated.”

Catherina Gioino: “I want to just put into very simple terms what Amazon did to show why it’s such a good move that we don’t have it. They created an artificial competition between cities across the entire country to sell themselves, to get Amazon, a multi-trillion dollar company… to come to New York — which it was going to do anyway.”

Evie Hantzopoulos: “It was a victory because now we are demanding more when large parcels of land are being developed. We should not be giving away public land like we were going to do [for Amazon].”

Nicholas Velkov: “We dodged a bullet that Amazon didn’t come here, we should be thanking our lucky stars Amazon didn’t come here… Amazon represents everything that’s wrong with capitalism… We don’t need Amazon jobs. Let’s give members of this community their own small business jobs.”

The primary election for the City Council race is on June 22. It will be followed by a November general election for the position. The winner of the general election will take office immediately since Constantinides would have vacated the position.

Tiffany Cabán (Queens Post)

Catherina Gioino (Photo: Queens Post)

Nicholas Velkov (Photo: Queens Post)

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