ASTORIA – The conaming of 31st Avenue between Steinway Street and 41st Street for the late Demetris Kastanas took place on May 7 under overcast skies. The event honored the Greek-born Kastanas who founded the National Greek Television program in 1975, then expanded it into its own channel in 1987. Eseis Magazine was also founded by Kastanas to cover issues affecting the Greek community.
Kastanas’ program was a staple in Greek-American homes for decades when weekend visits to Yiayia’s house always included watching Kastanas. For many, Kastanas’ program and later cable channel were a bridge to the homeland offering news and entertainment in the years before the internet and YouTube have made our world so much smaller. He was helped the fundraising efforts of a number of charities, including the Greek Children’s Cancer Fund.
The street conaming event was attended by Kastanas’ family members, including his widow, Nomiki, son George, daughter Matina, granddaughter Maria, son-in-law Michael Siderakis, as well as several dignitaries. New York City Council Member Costa Constantinides, Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Consul of Greece Costas Koutras, Consul of Cyprus Vasilis Phillipou, President of the Federation of Hellenic Societies Petros Galatoulas were all present and expressed their appreciation and thoughts on Kastanas’ life and legacy.
Archbishop Demetrios offered a blessing and noted that Kastanas’ legacy as a staunch supporter of the Greek Orthodox faith and Hellenism continues through his family and that his presence during these times is missed.
Constantinides said, “Demetris Kastanas helped promote Hellenism and Democratic values throughout his life. We honor him because he served as a great example of civic engagement. As the founder of the first Greek-language channel, he made news and entertainment accessible to Greek-Americans throughout our city and our country. We are proud to commemorate Kastanas’ contribution to our city with this street co-naming.”
State Senator Michael Gianaris, who was unable to attend, released this statement, “There is not a single Greek-American in New York whose life has not been touched by Demetris Kastanas. I have fond memories of watching his Saturday afternoon television show with my grandmother when I was a child, as it was the center of the Greek community at that time. It is an honor to continue his legacy through the addition of Demetris Kastanas Way right here in Astoria.”
Simotas spoke about her own personal memories, “I have such fond memories of my time visiting his station to express my best wishes to his listeners for the holidays and special occasions, both as a young student and in my current role representing our Astoria community. I am honored to be a part of this ceremony, renaming a street for this special person, right here in Astoria, which so many Greeks have called home.” She went onto say that she would be forever grateful for Kastanas’ support in the early days of her political career.
Nomiki Kastanas was moved by the event, and spoke with emotion, “I am so pleased, proud, and deeply humbled by this street co-naming honoring my husband, and although we miss him deeply, it gives us inner peace knowing that all his years of hard work and sacrifice have been vindicated, recognized, and appreciated.”
The event concluded with the unveiling of the street sign Demetris Kastanas Way and a presentation of a replica to the family members. Following the event, a reception for family and friends was held at Cavo.