As the first new CEO of Queens Botanical Garden For nearly three decades, Evie Hantzopoulos has been leading the Flushing-based nonprofit during an expansion that includes the construction of a $32 million education center.
After working as the executive director of the youth organization Global Children, where she worked for 11 years, Ms. Hantzopoulos dropped it to run for City Council, losing to Tiffany Cabán last year. She started her position at the community-centered garden in late January.
“I’m glad I ended up here,” she said, “because it allows me to give back to Queens and the city as a whole.”
Ms. Hantzopoulos, 56, of Greek immigrant parents, moved to Astoria, Queens, in 1999. She lives with her husband, David Motamed, 57, a doctor, their three children, 16, 19 and 22 and were not asked. To be identified, their dog, Scout, a stooped cat (sometimes) answers to Mimi, a turtle named Spike, and two chickens, Ethel and Maude.
FRIEND I actually get up with the chickens at 6 or 6:30. Everyone else in the house was still in bed, and I let Ethel and Maude out of the cage and fed them. We’ve had them since 2018, when they were a day old. My idea was not to have them, but I had to go to Massachusetts to take care of my mother for a few weeks, and when I got home, we had chicks.
START SAVING CODE One of the first things I did was make a cup of coffee and read the newspaper. I still get the print edition of The New York Times. I have a French press, but my coffee is nothing short of fancy. I prefer savory instead of sweet for breakfast, so I usually eat hummus on pita bread or Greek bread with feta cheese. Frequently, I have eggs from chickens.
COOK Before 8 o’clock, I leave the house to do some grocery shopping, usually at Stop & Shop by Home Depot or CTown, which is about a block from me. We cook a lot – we don’t buy a lot to take out – so I cook in batches to last the week. I make dishes like chickpea stew, or marinate chicken (I don’t let Ethel and Maude see me do it). I get a box of community-supported produce delivered weekly, so I look into it to see what I can use.
SOME SPECIAL THINGS I also prepare for Sunday dinner. I love having friends and family – usually my sister, Maria and her family – over. The meal is usually something more special, such as a barbecue, or in spring and summer, fish or Souvlakis grilled on an outdoor barbecue. After a light lunch filled with leftovers, I cleaned the house – it was a disaster zone.
UP AND OUT After all the cooking and cleaning was done, I met a friend in the neighborhood for coffee, usually at Sweet scene or Mrs. Sousou. In warm weather, I checked out what was happening on 31st Avenue. I was one of the organizers who launched the launch. Open Street Programwhich hosts everything from children’s shows and activities to holiday markets.
BUT ACTIVITIES DIFFERENTLY Every member of my family is independent and we do a lot of our own on Sundays. David was a professional bass guitarist; he changed his career at 40. He still plays in a band, Royal Arctic Institute, to have fun and practice on the weekend. Sometimes David and I tend to the organic vegetable garden with one or more of our children. We haven’t always had much success with the product, but I was hoping to get some advice from the gardeners at the botanical garden.
FAMILY DEVICE At 5 or 6 o’clock, I usually come home to prepare Sunday dinner. I love to cook for people and enjoying meals with family and friends is part of my Greek culture. Given my schedule, it’s hard to do this any other day of the week.
PREPARATION FOR THE WEEK When our guests have all gone, generally at 9 o’clock, I begin to rest. I pay the bills and review the schedule for the upcoming week. Sometimes I look at social media and finish reading the article. My youngest is still in high school, so I have to do my homework. I can call a friend to strike up a conversation, but honestly, sometimes I don’t do anything. By 10 or 10:30, I’m in bed. I fell asleep right away and slept through the night.
Sunday Routine readers can follow Evie Hantzopoulos on Twitter at @evie4us and watch more at Queens Botanical Garden on Instagram @QueensBotanicalGarden.