NEW YORK – A community’s future depends on its leaders’ ability to bring its concerns and needs to the attention of local officials.
Relationships must be established and cultivated, and when good friends leave office, the process begins again. On March 26, Eric Adams, the new Borough President of Brooklyn, invited Brooklyn’s Hellenes to celebrate Greek Independence Day at Borough Hall, signaling a great start.
Prior to the ceremony, where Greek-Americans who have distinguished themselves in service to their communities were honored by Adams, and which was followed by a reception and cultural program, the new Borough President of Brooklyn sat down for a discussion with The National Herald.
Adams said he admires Greek-Americans for the way they adore both Greece – which he has visited and loves – and America, their adopted country. He said immigrant communities made Brooklyn a better place.
He also understands how the office of the borough president can help the community continue both its growth and its contributions to Brooklyn.
Adams acknowledged the success of the Greek-American community rests on the twin pillars of small businesses and education, and added the importance of the restaurant industry not only for the community but the City as a whole.
He told TNH that during his tenure as a state senator he realized that restaurateurs in New York were being subjected to overtaxing in the form of unnecessary citations. “That has prevented them from using their resources to grow and hire more people,” he said.
While he commends Mayor de Blasio and the City Council for their proposals to change how citations are issued, Adams says that is not enough.
“For those infractions that are not directly health related, there should be a period for corrective action,” he said. Only in the case of repeat offenders should there be punitive financial action he said.
“We are leading the charge here is Borough Hall on how to create a more business-friendly environment,” but he also wants to provide business owners resources that will help them grow, from loans, to advice about how to tap into existing programs.
Adams is a strong supporter of de Blasio’s Pre-K initiative. “Having quality education impacts us all and we must continue the dialogue around private and public schools and charter schools.”
He said he is aware of “the amazing result of the Hellenic Classical Charter School, where there is a cross section of children interacting with each other. I want to encourage that kind of growth. The name of the game is to educate all of our children and that’s part of what I believe the Greek community has always stood for.”
As borough president he makes appointment to the Panel for Education Policy and other key bodies.
Culture is important to Brooklyn as both a resource, though its many institutions, and a social reality given the number of immigrants who call it home. Adams is looking forward to the first Brooklyn World’s Fair where Brooklynites will experience one another’s food, traditional garments and music. “
We will continue to develop the concept of diversity and see how we can learn from one another,” he said.
Adams got a taste of that on March 26 – literally when the food was served, and in spirit with dances performed by the children of the Greek School of Plato, The Hellenic Classical Charter School, the A. Fantis Parochial School and the Dimitrios and Georgia Kaloides School.
He must have been reminded of this visit to Mykonos, to which he looks forward to returning. “Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco. I left in in Mykonos and its clear blue water.”
During the earlier ceremony by Fr. Eugene Pappas, pastor of Three Hierarchs served as Emcee And assisted by local clergy offered the benediction. Zoe Koutsoupakis also welcomed the guests that packed borough hall’s venerable courtroom.
Boy Scout Troop 531, “The Golden Greeks” of Three Hierarchs, presented the colors and the
The honorees who were selected by their parishes, included: Stellena Argyriou, Antonia Bregianos, Tony Grigos, Nick Karkas, Dimitrios Mallas, Joanna Vassilas, John Vorvolakos, Steve Vourderis, Dennis Voiuderis, and Peter Yiatrakis.
Jimmy Kokotas was separately selected by the Borough President. Kokotas, a restaurateur, was cited for “opening his doors to help hundreds if not thousands” in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy.
The dignitaries included Manos Koubarakis, the Greek Consul, Amb. Vasilios Philippou, the Consul general of Cyprus, and Elias Tsekerides.
City Councilman Costas Constantinides, the first Greek and Cypriot to be elected to the New York City Council, was greeted with enthusiastic applause.
Nicholas Chamberas emphasized the Cyprus cause. He represented Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, and declared, “Our celebration of Greek Independence…will never be complete until Cyprus is free.”
Andrew Gounardes, who was appointed by Adams to be Counsel at the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President, also welcomed the guests, and focused on solidarity with the people of Greece. He declared that the spirit that moved their forbears to liberate Greece from the Ottoman yoke manifests itself “day in and day out…as Greece works to rebuild itself and exit the crisis.
Adams also introduced former City Councilman Domenic Recchia, who is running for U.S. Congress and Diana Reyna, deputy borough president, and City Councilman Mark Treyger.