42 year old Greek American lawyer is a candidate for Mayor in the June 19 village election
New York.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Andrew Karamouzis was attending Law School in 1988, when Michael Doukakis was running for President of the United States and although he took pride as most of Greek Americans that one of our own was running for the highest office, he couldnʼt imagine that himself, 19 years later, he would the mayoral candidate for Rockville Center, in Nassau County, Long Island, NY.
“I canʼt tell you that back then the seed was planted for me to go into politics. It really sort of just happened the way things happen in life. You donʼt ever expect something but somehow on opportunity just presents itself and you say “By Gosh I got to do this, itʼs important and Iʼm just going to jump in” and thatʼs what happened with me”.
Andrew Karamouzis, 42, is a lawyer, serving for the past 2 years on the Board of Trustees of Rockville Center. A village of about 25,000 people, mostly white, in the Town of Hempstead. RVC (as itʼs been called by its citizens has the most restaurants per capita in the U.S.; it was the first village to have an ATM machine in the whole country and back in the early ʽ70s, a 15 year old student named Howard Stern attended South Side High School, ranking one of the top in the country, in 2005.
“It was a very difficult decision to run. Iʼve been on the board now for two years and actually one of the things was that Mayor Murray, after 20 years he decided not to run. I was encouraged to run for mayor by many friends, and neighbors and supporters after Mayor Murray announced his retirement and based on all the things that have been happening in the village, I decided to do that.
I think I can make a strong contribution to the community. Iʼm on the board now but being mayor would afford me more opportunity to make critical decisions for the village, especially in terms of appointments to keep positions like Village Administrator, Village Attorney and Superintendent of buildings, because right now those positions are unfilled”.
Andrew is the son of Panagiotis and Eleni Karamouzis, from Kalavryta. He was born in Elmhurst, Queens and he attended the Public School in Corona, while attending the afternoon Greek school of Transfiguration. He attended the Hunter College High School and he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1986 from Fordham Law School, in 1988.
“My father came to the United States in 1956 and heʼs the typical Greek story and the American dream; he worked three jobs and then went back to Greece for a little while and married my mother and they came back here and they raised a wonderful family. I have two sisters, one who lives out here in Long Island and one who lives in NYC”.
Andrew Karamouzis remembers how he was working at his fathers deli, in 9th Avenue and 40th Street in Manhattan. A typical Greek. Panagiotis Karamouzis was always “suspicious” of politics and as Andrew told GreekNews, he was advising his son to stay away.
“My father said “You are doing well, you are successful, youʼre an attorney, you have a nice family, why you want to go be involved in that?” And I explained to him that I have to give back to our community here, and Iʼm going to live here hopefully for the rest of my life, certainly want to raise my children, and if you donʼt step up then you are not part of the solution.
But the discouragement is only because of concern. Itʼ s very difficult these days and Iʼve learned that these last couple of years on the board and running now, you become, whether you like it or not, a target for some people. Thereʼs a tremendous sacrifice to your personal life, in terms of your family and your time, and so these are all the things that make it difficult for people to get into public service”.
A close friend to Charles Kapetanakis, founder of the Hellenic Charter School in Brooklyn, Karamouzis also takes pride of Greek American accomplishments in politics.
“I attribute that to our ethics, our hard work, our rich heritage – cultural and political heritage, obviously were the birthplace of democracy and I think itʼs a certain pride in being Greek that has led many in the Greek-American community to seek public service and seek to give back to their communities here. We have a wonderful example here in Rockville Center of our own state senator, Dean Skelos,. We also have his brother an appellate court judge and a shining example. So, Iʼm just following those examples that have been set”.
Andrew Karamouzis is a member of the St Paul Parish of Hempstead. His older daughter attends the afternoon Greek school and his younger daughter will join next year. Karamouzis has been coaching the Girls basketball team, and he is also a soccer coach in Rockville Center for the girls.
The main campaign issue is the development of the downtown Rockville Center. Karamouzis and his Residentʼs Voice Party, support before any decision to be made, the village should carefully plan its needs and the effects in the quality of life of its citizens.
“In 2003 the village board voted unanimously to pass whatʼs called the Multifamily Law which allowed residential construction in the downtown and business districts and that led to a project called Signature Place which was filed two weeks after the law was passed, calling for originally almost 500 rental apartment units right behind our King Kullen supermarket. That project in my opinion is really what spread the debate here about what the future face of Rockville Center should look like.
So that continues to be a hot button issue here in the village and I think that itʼs been an issue that has galvanized the community. I think the community has made a strong statement when I was elected in 2005 as to how they feel about that”.
Karamouzis explains that he is not against development, but against overdevelopment. .
“What we have to do, what we havenʼt had here in Rockville Center is a master plan about how we want our village to look 5, 10, 15 years from now. And instead of doing haphazard development and doing shoehorn development here and there, we should take a breath and figure out what we want to do.
I had proposed a moratorium, a one year moratorium, to allow us to study the issue. Originally I proposed a repeal of the Multifamily Law but the Nassau County Planning Commission and my fellow board members were not in favor of that.
Actually, the majority of the board was in favor of it, it was a 3 to 2 vote, but the way it works here in villages is your recommendations for zoning go to the Nassau County Planning Commission and for 90%, 95% of the time the Nassau County Planning Commission defers to the local determination but for some reason here they rejected the majority of the boardʼs proposal and in order to pass it you need a supermajority, you need four votes, and the mayor and the trustee Lipton voted against us.
Then we went to the proposalʼs moratorium, same thing happened. We went to the Nassau County Planning Commission, they rejected it, so you can see that a pattern was developing”.
His Residentsʼ Voice Party presently holds the majority on the Board of Trustees and the chances to keep it after the June 19 elections are high. His running mates are, Susanne Murphy Sullivan, a village trustee and Ralph Bumbaca.
Concerned Citizens Party, that returned in Rockville Centerʼs political scene, announced in March that former Trustee Mary Whalen Bossart will be its candidate for mayor, while the Home Rule Party will stay out of the ballots, after many years.
“Iʼm not looking to fix things that arenʼt broken. Rockville Center is very well run which is directly attributable to village managers and village employees but we are at a crossroads here in terms of development, which way we want our village to go and how we can maintain our character and quality of the village. So thatʼs the issue in my mind”, he adds.
Although many suggest that Karamouzis will certainly be the next mayor, he believes that the election will be close and that the road ahead will be tough. Every vote counts and certainly it is essential for all the approximately one hundred Greek Americans living in Rockville center to vote on June 19 and bring along their friends.