By David Brand
Three Western Queens lawmakers of Greek descent hosted a celebration of Greece’s Independence at a special event in Astoria last week. Greece and Cyprus commemorates the war of independence from the Ottoman Empire on March 25 each year .
State Sen. Michael Gianaris, Assemblymember Aravella Simotas and Councilmember Costa Constantinides joined community leaders to mark Greek heritage at the Stathakion Center in Astoria, a neighborhood famous for its rich Greek culture.
“There is no better place than Astoria to recognize our heritage and celebrate the spirit of democracy, freedom and independence that links the U.S. and Greece,” said Gianaris, the son of Greek immigrants.
Simotas recognized the cultural impact of Greeks on Astoria, where Greek immigrants have settled for generations.
“Those immigrants and their families have enhanced our beautiful community while they pursued their American dreams,” she said.
The event honored five community leaders of Greek descent: Maria Haralampopoulos, an educator at the Academy of American Studies; Father George Anastasiou, NYPD chaplin; Betsy Sideris, principal of St. Catherine’s School; Effie Lekas, Queens College professor; and Florence Koulouris, district manager of Community Board 1.
“The five extraordinary Hellenes that we honor at this year’s celebration strengthen and promote our Greek heritage daily through our schools, churches and civic engagement,” Simotas said. “They have my deepest appreciation for lifting up our Greek community and this beautiful borough of Queens that we call home.”