ASTORIA – The Greek-American community in New York has been plunged into mourning by the death of Dennis (Demosthenes) Syntilas, the creator of Athens Square Park in Astoria, who passed away on January 7.
Countless friends will express their condolences over the coming days to his wife Rita, children Vayia and George Apergis, and grandchildren Dimitrios, Despina-Anastasia, his siblings, nieces and nephew and other relatives.
The community has been enriched by the contributions of thousands over the past century. Many of those leaders and benefactors have been honored by their fellow Hellenes and their names are inscribed in both hearts and buildings, but few have left permanent physical marks on the City of New York like Athens Square Park, the dream Syntilas brought to fruition as the president of Athens Square, Inc.
The words inscribed in London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral about its architect, Sir Christopher Wren, apply to Syntilas when people visit the park in the heart of New York’s Greek town: “if you seek his monument – look around you.”
In addition to being a community leader, Syntilas was a successful businessman. For many years he was the director of the Astoria branch of Atlantic Bank and was very active on issues concerning Hellenism in America and the community’s institutions.
He served as president of the Greek American Homeowners Association of Astoria and the Aesculapian Thessalian Brotherhood “Asclepius,” which during his tenures acquired their own buildings in Astoria.
His greatest achievement, however, was the creation of Athens Square Park, which has become a popular neighborhood social and cultural center and an example New York City’s recognition of the contributions its Greek-American citizens and of Greek civilization to mankind.
Statues of Athena, Socrates, and Aristotle will soon be joined by a bust of the playwright Sophocles.
The late Mayor Ed Koch noted that it is the first municipal park dedicated to one of New York’s 198 ethnic groups.
Athens Square Park was the result of the hard work of many, but the visionary, inspirer and mainstay of the project was Syntilas, who established Athens Square, Inc.
When Syntilas fell ill and could no longer perform his duties his colleagues George Stamatiadis, George Delis, George Alexiou and George Kitsios consciously chose not to replace him as president as they continued the work of organizing cultural events and raising the money required for the installation the statue of Sophocles.
Friends had hoped Syntilas would defeat the disease and be present at the unveiling the park’s latest work of art.
Those who know him would say that Syntilas is one of the people who belong to the noble “We” cited by General Yannis Makriyannis, the hero of the Greek War for Independence.
His gentleness, simplicity, consistency and dedication, patience and perseverance gave his fellow Hellenes the opportunity contribute some of their savings to creation of the monument, generating community pride.
Syntilas was honored by the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York, and many other community organizations in addition to governmental authorities.
The funeral has been set for 10:15 AM on January 10 at the Church of St. Katherine and St. George in the Ditmars district of Astoria.