ASTORIA – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio visited the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York at its headquarters, the Stathakion Center, in Astoria on May 11. He was greeted by Federation President Petros Galatoulas, 3rd Vice President George Kalergios, and businessman John Kalafatis, and signed the guest book in the President’s office.
“You are the first mayor of New York to officially visit the Federation in the Stathakion Center,” said Mr. Galatoulas, noting that in the recent past Governor George Pataki had made a similar visit.
“It is a great honor for me,” replied Mayor de Blasio, joking that “the Governor… does not count.” The President of the Federation then gave him a signed copy of the painting of the parade that he has in his office.
The mayor then addressed the guests and the members of the Federation’s Board of Directors in the Stathakion’s event hall. He said, “You really have to understand how much I appreciate this Community for its contribution not only to Astoria but to the whole city. I had the honor of living in Astoria when I was younger. I have seen for years and years, but especially as mayor, the powerful impact the Greek Community has on this city. So much of the character and culture comes from the Greek community, so much of the economic dynamism comes from the community, and I just want to express my appreciation.”
Mayor de Blasio also referred to his administration’s achievements, noting the significant reduction in crime, and the effort to keep the city accessible to everyone.
“New York must be for everyone,” he said, noting the effort to build affordable housing when rents are so high.
New York City Council Member Costa Constantinides then praised the mayor, noting that “Whether as a City Council Member, as Public Advocate, or as mayor, Bill de Blasio never ceased to care about the people.”
On behalf of the Federation of Hellenic Societies, Despina Galatoula thanked the mayor for his presence.
“We know, Mr. Mayor, the love that you and your wife have for the Greek community, as well as your warm words at the Greek Independence celebration at Gracie Mansion. Greeks in New York work hard and have ambitions. The Federation of Hellenic Societies wants to continue to work with you and your office for the sake of the Community, especially for future generations.”
The speeches were followed by an authentic Greek feast set up in the Stathakion’s backyard, with live music, lambs roasted on the spit, souvlaki, and other dishes.
In honor of the mayor’s birthday, the Federation also presented him with a cake to add to the festive atmosphere of the celebration.
Petros Galatoulas pointed out that the first, historic, official visit of the current New York City Mayor to the Stathakion demonstrates the progress of the Federation.
“The presence of the mayor of New York proves that the Federation is now a significant force,” he said. Galatoulas added that the visit was not limited to statements of praise and ceremony, but that further dialogue had taken place with a view towards future cooperation.
“We talked about important things which cannot be commented on until they are launched,” Galatoulas said.
George Kalergios, Petros Galatoulas, Mayor Bill de Blasio, John Kalafatis, and New York City Council Member Costa Constantinides. Photo by Costas Bej