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How the Executive Director of the Queens Botanical Garden Spends Her Sundays

As the first new executive director of the Queens Botanical Garden in nearly three decades, Evie Hantzopoulos is leading the Flushing-based nonprofit through a period of expansion that includes the building of a $32 million education center.

After serving as the executive director of the youth organization Global Kids, where she worked for 11 years, Ms. Hantzopoulos left it to run for the City Council, losing the bid to Tiffany Cabán last year. She started the position at the community-centric garden in late January.

“I’m glad I ended up here,” she said, “because it allows me to give to Queens as well as the whole city.”

Ms. Hantzopoulos, 56, whose parents were Greek immigrants, moved to Astoria, Queens, in 1999. She lives with her husband, David Motamed, 57, a physician associate, their three children, who are 16, 19 and 22 and asked not to be identified, their dog, Scout, a stoop-sitting cat who (sometimes) answers to Mimi, a turtle named Spike and two chickens, Ethel and Maude.

FEATHERED FRIENDS I’m literally up with the chickens at 6 or 6:30. Everyone else in the house is still in bed, and I let Ethel and Maude out of their coop and feed them. We’ve had them since 2018, when they were one day old. It wasn’t my idea to get them, but I had to go to Massachusetts to take care of my mother for several weeks, and when I came home, we had baby chickens.

SAVORY START One of the first things I do is make a cup of coffee and read the paper. I still get the print edition of The New York Times. I have a French press, but my coffee isn’t anything fancy. I like savory as opposed to sweet for breakfast, so I generally have hummus on a pita or Greek bread with feta cheese. Every so often, I have eggs from the chickens.

BATCH COOKING Before 8, I’m out of the house to do food shopping, usually at Stop & Shop by Home Depot or CTown, which is around the block from me. We cook a lot — we don’t do lots of takeout — so I do batch cooking to last through the week. I make dishes like chickpea stew, or I marinate chicken (I don’t let Ethel and Maude see me do it). I get a Community Supported Agriculture box of produce delivered every week, so I look in it to see what I can use.

Ms. Hantzopoulos prefers to stay in Astoria on the weekends, often meeting friends at local coffee shops.Credit…Dieu-Nalio Chéry for The New York Times

SOMETHING SPECIAL I also prep for Sunday dinner. I love to have friends and family — usually my sister, Maria, and her family — over. The meal is usually something more special, say a roast, or in the spring and summer, fish or souvlakis grilled on the outdoor barbecue. After a light lunch, which is all about leftovers, I clean the house — it’s a disaster zone.

At home with her sister, Maria Hantzopoulos, left. “I love to cook for people, and enjoying a meal with family and friends is part of my Greek culture.”Credit…Dieu-Nalio Chéry for The New York Times

UP AND OUT Once I’ve done all the cooking and cleaning, I meet a friend in the neighborhood for coffee, usually at Sweet Scene or Madame Sousou. In warm weather, I check out what’s happening on 31st Avenue. I was one of the organizers who launched its Open Streets program, which hosts everything from performances and children’s activities to holiday markets.

Having a coffee with her friend Maryam Shariat at Madame Sousou in Astoria.Credit…Dieu-Nalio Chéry for The New York Times

ACTING LOCALLY I’m involved in a lot of community activities and mutual aid — I’m on Queens Community Board 1, and I’m on the board of the nonprofit The Connected Chef,which ensures families have local nutritious food, and attend events related to them. I’m also on the board of the Western Queens Community Land Trust and do food relief through the Astoria Mutual Aid Network and Frontline Foods Queens. Since I got the job at the Queens Botanical Garden, I stop in there, too, when there are events so I can help out and greet visitors.

Fresh produce at the Climate Arts Festival, which was held last weekend at the Queens Botanical Garden.Credit…Dieu-Nalio Chéry for The New York Times

DIFFERENT ACTIVITIES Every member of my family is independent, and we do a lot of our own things on Sundays. David used to be a professional bass guitar player; he changed careers at age 40. He still plays in a band, The Royal Arctic Institute, for fun and rehearses on the weekends. Sometimes David and I tend our organic vegetable garden together with one or more of our kids. We don’t always have a lot of success with the produce, but I’m hoping to get some tips from the horticulturists at the botanical garden.

FAMILY DINNER By 5 or 6 o’clock, I’m generally back home getting Sunday dinner ready. I love to cook for people, and enjoying a meal with family and friends is part of my Greek culture. With my schedule, it’s hard to do this any other day of the week.

Family dinner in the backyard.Credit…Dieu-Nalio Chéry for The New York Times

PREP FOR THE WEEK Once our guests are gone, generally by 9, I start to wind down. I pay bills and review the upcoming week’s schedule. Sometimes I check out social media and finish reading the paper. My youngest is still in high school, so I make sure homework is being done. I may call a friend to catch up, but honestly, sometimes I do nothing. By 10 or 10:30, I’m in bed. I fall right asleep and sleep the night through.

Sunday Routine readers can follow Evie Hantzopoulos on Twitter at @evie4us and goings-on at the Queens Botanical Garden on Instagram @QueensBotanicalGarden.

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