The Need for a New Cultural Space, the Nikos Mouyiaris Theater in Queens

Left to right: Kyriacos Papastylianou, Philip Christopher, Ismini Michaels, Consul General of Cyprus Alexis Phedonos-Vadet, Effie Antoniou, and Hercules Argyriou with images of the planned building and Nikos Mouyiaris Theater. Photo: TNH/Christodoulos Athanasatos

ASTORIA – The Pancyprian Association of America is investing in a plan to build a new state-of-the-art theater in Astoria – the first of its kind in decades. Named in honor of the late businessman and philanthropist Nikos Mouyiaris, this theater would be located at the base of a new proposed residential building on 46th Street (between Ditmars Boulevard and 23rd Avenue), which must undergo a rezoning in order to allow for the new mixed-use space.

The 8700 square foot theater, built in partnership with Pancyprian and Mega Contracting Group, would serve the community’s cultural groups and will be a high quality venue in Queens for a variety of events.

According to the information released, the theater will be housed on the ground floor of a new building, comprising 130 apartments of which 30% will be affordable housing, as well as 108 indoor parking spaces. The total construction cost for the theater is $500,000, while Pancyprian will then pay the rent and maintenance costs for the theater.

Pancyprian Music and Artistic Director Phyto Stratis spoke about the need for a new cultural center in the community. Photo: TNH/Christodoulos Athanasatos

In the presentation of the project to the press, held at Dionysos in Astoria on May 13, the involved parties shared the plans for the building as well as the critical approval procedures which must be followed carefully so as not to delay or even cancel the project; the main issue being the rezoning of the area to allow for the space to be built.  For this reason, a petition has been launched to show the community’s support for the project and positively influence the judgment of the community board. As long as administrative and bureaucratic procedures are completed without any problems, construction is expected to begin in the summer of 2020, with an implementation timetable running between 12-18 months.

The petition is available online: www.pancypriantheaterastoria.org.

“The cultural space that we deserve”

The heads of the collaborating institutions focused on the fact that the Greek community has the opportunity to finally have a theater that meets all its needs, while honoring the memory of Nikos Mouyiaris, whose name will be given to the new space.

“The Nikos Mouyiaris Theater will not only be for Pancyprian. We will rent it to other associations and groups, of course, Greek and non-Greek alike, and it will be available when we are not holding an event. It is essential for the community board to know that it is a project to the benefit of the entire community. We will have facilities that will accommodate our rich cultural activity, a real work of art,” said Philip Christopher.

An image of the exterior of the building. Photo: Pancyprian website

When asked how basic prerequisites such as parking would be met, since the 108 spots would be occupied by the building’s tenants, Hercules Argyriou of the Mega Contracting Group, noted that there would be some spaces available but there would also be an arrangement for the use of parking with the neighboring Astoria Facility, when there is an event, while pointing out that the re-zoning is key.

“The zoning is complicated. We are asking for it to become a residential zone. There is also the argument that the square also belongs to the Pistilli building, which is taller than ours. At first they asked us to sell the place and make it into a warehouse. We prefer to work with Pancyprian and do something that the community and the area need,” said Argyriou.

New York City Council Member Costa Constantinides, who was the “link” between Pancyprian and the Mega Contracting Group, spoke of the project as a landmark that will pass from generation to generation for the community.

“It is an opportunity for us to build a theater of our own. A cultural center for our children and grandchildren that will become a point of reference not only for the Greeks, but also for the whole community. I support the Nikos Mouyiaris theater and it is important to see it realized. We deserve it,” said Constantinides, while the Consul General of the Republic of Cyprus in New York, Alexis Phedonos-Vadet, conveyed the support of the Cypriot government for the project.

“Pancyprian is accustomed to impressive and ambitious plans and that is why we believe that the goal will be achieved with the help of both the Mega Contracting Group and Council Member Costa Constantinides,” he said.

An image of what the theater interior would look like. Photo: Pancyprian website

President of the Federation of Cypriot American Organizations Kyriacos Papastylianou said that “the Federation will support the building of the theater to the fullest extent that it can because it is something that the community needs.”

On behalf of the artists, the Pancyprian Music and Artistic Director Phyto Stratis pointed out that Cypriots need such a place.

“We often perform in venues that are not just aesthetically unpleasant, but do not meet our artistic specifications and basic security requirements. In addition, there is often considerable economic cost in having to rent a venue for each performance,” said Stratis.

Director Leonidas Loizides expressed his satisfaction with the construction of a privately owned theater, which he noted “should have been built a long time ago.”

Finally, the Public Relations Officer of the Mega Contracting Group, Tatiana Constantinople, discussed in detail the procedures involved, expressing the view that any objections would mainly be out of ignorance about the project.

“We are talking about a theater, a beautiful building that will house families in Astoria. We have already begun with the petition. Appropriate responses should be given at the two upcoming community meetings on June 5 and in September.”