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Letter to Editor

Letter to the Editor: Re: Missing Museum Article by Professor Kitroeff

February 9, 2024

To the Editor:

 

As a founding member of the Athens Square Committee whose community in Astoria created the only Hellenic-themed public space in North America over 30 years ago, I must take issue with Professor Kitroeff’s misguided comment that we should “forget about Astoria and its Greektown…” and focus instead on the creation of Hellenic Museum in Manhattan [Missing Museum, TNH January 27]. While the history of the Greek presence in Manhattan will always be an important part of our community’s history, Queens’ vibrant cultural diversity and importance, especially during the last 100 years – and more recently in the last half-century, argue that this is where any such a museum should be housed. After all, it was in Astoria that our Archdiocese and its theology school were first located and where, beginning in the 1960s, the settlement of thousands of Greek immigrants brought many aspects of Hellenic culture to the attention of the entire city and attracted mainstream national attention. It is also where our community founded an effective and vibrant social services agency aptly named the Hellenic Neighborhood Action Committee (HANAC) which continues to serve the needs of New Yorkers throughout the city and where the most visible annual symbol of New York’s Greek community – the Greek Independence Day Parade is planned.

The professor may be interested to know that when HANAC was founded in 1973, a Greek community resource center and museum was envisioned, which did not materialize for a variety of reasons. The need for such a museum was also recognized in the 1990s by the Athens Square Committee which planned to locate it near the square as its next project. This was part of Dennis Syntilas’ vision which tragically did not move forward due to his untimely passing. As Dennis often reminded us “even if there are no Greeks living in NYC a thousand years from now, the fact that an Athens Square was created for everyone to enjoy will remind future generations that we passed this way.”

In fact, I am also aware that two courageous Greek-American ladies from Long Island envisioned the creation of a Greek Museum/Center for Greek-American Heritage. Their fund-raising efforts and collection of cultural materials have continued well into the 21st century and need to be supported and revived. One should also recognize that the cost of creating such an institution would also be far less if located outside of Manhattan, and yet, it would still represent and serve the entire city as does the Museum of the Moving Image. I am glad that it has recently occurred to Professor Kitroeff that there is a need for a museum to highlight our community’s past and present contributions. Perhaps he would like to work with Astoria’s diverse Greek fraternal and cultural groups to help us establish it in Queens. In any case, I am sure that all Greek-Americans would support such a museum no matter where it is built.

Thank you, National Herald, for publishing an English edition which keeps us all informed.

 

Sincerely,

George L. Stamatiades

Astoria, NY

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