Greek Independence Day Feted in Queens

ASTORIA – Greek-Americans and philhellenes know that the parade is around the corner when the political leaders in the Borough of Queens host their annual “Greek Independence Day Celebration.”

This year’s event was held in Astoria’s Stathakion Center and was sponsored by the new borough president, Melinda Katz, New York State Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas – who was under the weather and could not attend – and City Councilman for Astoria Costas Constantinides.

Gianaris, who served as the Emcee and opened by welcoming the guests who filled the hall and thanking the event’s benefactors, said that with the election last year of Constantinides – the first Greek and Cypriot on the City Council, the community achieved a “trifecta,” and achievement which was also acknowledged by other speakers, including Katz.

Katz said she was privilege to cohost the event, which she said also celebrates the contributions of Greek-Americans to Queens and demonstrated solidarity to the people of Cyprus.

Constantinides expressed his apprecation to the community for its support and echoed the words of Gianaris when the latter was first elected to the State Assembly and declared that he too will work to open doors to Greek-Americans seeking elected office.

Elias Tsekerides, the president of Hellenic American Societies of Greater New York, which organizes the Greek Parade on Fifth Avenue welcomed the guests to the home of the Federation and invited them all to the parade on March 30. He, too, expressed pride in the three politicians and promised to work with them to open doors for others – and to help the three rise to greater heights.

The Consul General of Greece, who was one of three honorees that night, along with Evie Hantzopalos and Nicos Tsiazas, said he accepted the honor on behalf of his dedicated colleagues at the consulate, where the staff is at 1/3 pre-crisis levels. He also acknowledged the support of his wife, Anthousa.

spoke of the importance of honoring the heroes and heroines of the Greek War of Independence who gave their lives so their descendants could live better lives. He also emphasized that over 5000 years the Greek people survived more serious crisis than the one they face today.

Hantzopalos was honored for her community service. She praised her parents – her father was a cabinet maker and her mother a garment worker – for the sacrifices they made for her and her four siblings, and her husband “who was not Greek but now is Greek,” for supporting all her endeavors.

Tziazas, has focused his community work on youth athletics, especially in support of soccer leagues, which he said are vital to children’s’ development, reminding the gathering of the Greek ideal of “healthy minds in healthy bodies.” He turned to Katz and said more soccer fields are needed. She responded: “check,” and Gianaris said “done!”

Before the Borough President presented the proclamation that cited Greek civilization as the bedrock of Western society and declared March 14 Greek Independence Day in the Borough of Queens, she presented a surprise citation to Constantinides

Very Rev. Nektarios Papazafiropoulos, Dean of St. Demetrios Cathedral offered the invocation and Christos Alexandrou sang the national anthems. Also present, visiting from the island of Kefalonia, was the Very Rev. Fotios Gabrielatos.

The event concluded with a performance by one of the dance troupes of the Cretan Association Omonia and closing remarks by attorney Demetrius Kalamaras.

Andrew Gounardes, who was recently appointed general counsel to the Borough President of Brooklyn, Eric Adams, came all the way from Brooklyn for the celebration, “The fact that we have the largest Greek community in the City represented by three outstanding Greek-Americans is something we should all be so proud of.

“It has been a decades-long struggle. We finally elected our first City Councilman but it’s a testament to those who came before and we are absolutely continuing…that’s why I’m here today. We have to set the stage for the next generation.

George Kitsios, the president of the Greek American Homeowners Association, emphasized how they have supported the community’s candidates through the years and said “we are very proud of them.”

John Kaiteris, the Executive Director of HANAC, told TNH it is amazing that the community has representatives at some many levels of government. “This is a turning point and a marvelous time for all of us.” He said HANAC has spoken to Ms. Katz’s deputy and is looking forward to discussing community and general social service needs with her.

PHOTO CAPTON: Among the dignitaries and honorees at the Greek Independence celebration at the Stathakion Center in Astoria were: (L-R) Evie Hantzopalos, Vasilios Philippou, Elias Tsekerides, Michael Gianaris, Very Rev. Fotios Gabrielatos, Melinda Katz, Very Rev. Nektarios Papazafiropoulos, Costas Constantinides, George Iliopoulos and Nicos Tziazas.



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