Queens Borough President Melinda Katz hosted her first Greek Independence Day Event as Borough President on Friday evening, March 14, in the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York Stathakion Center, located at 22-51 29th Street in Astoria.
State Senator Michael Gianaris, State Assembly member Aravella Simotas and City Council member Costa Constantinides were co-sponsors of the event, which was attended by about 250 members and friends of the Greek American community in Queens.
“It gives me great pleasure to sponsor this salute to the Greek American community during this celebration of Greek Independence Day,” Borough President Katz said. “There are more than 53 thousand Greek Americans living in Queens and they have contributed greatly to the borough’s economic, civic, political and cultural life. They are an integral part of our borough’s unique cultural diversity and an asset that makes Queens a truly special place to live, work and visit. On behalf of the 2.3 million people who call Queens home, I wish everyone a very happy Greek Independence Day.”
The highlight of the evening was the awarding of Citations of Honor to four distinguished individuals who were recognized for their outstanding achievements in public service, business, youth development and diplomacy.
Those honored Friday were:
- Evie Hantzopoulos, executive director of the Global Kids, a non-profit organization that promotes global awareness, leadership development and social action among underserved youth in New York City and Washington, D.C. Ms. Hantzopoulos is also a member of Queens Community Board 1 and is a Rockefeller Foundation Next Generation Leadership Fellow.
- Georgios Illiopoulos, the Consul General of Greece in New York. Born and raised in Athens, Mr. Illiopoulos has had a distinguished diplomatic career that began in 1991 and has included service in the United Nations Disarmament Unit and assignments in Finland, Albania, Denmark and South Africa.
- Nicos Tziazas, a business leader who emigrated to the United States in 1980 and founded Lyons Mortgage Services and the Lyons General Insurance Agency. Mr. Tziazas is an avid soccer player who has toured his native Cyprus with his Astoria-based youth soccer club, Eleftheria-Pancyprians. He is also president of the Panpaphian Association of America and vice president of the Cyprus Federation of America.
- Costa Constantinides, who was presented with a surprise Citation of Honor in recognition of his advocacy for the working men and women of Queens. Mr. Constantinides is a lifelong Queens resident who became the first Greek Cypriot American to serve on the New York City Council after he was elected to represent the 22nd Council District in November 2013. He previously served as a legislative director for two Council members and has been a staunch advocate for the environment, voter protection, better education and improved services for seniors.
In addition to those Citations of Honor, Borough President Katz presented a Proclamation to the organizers of New York City’s annual Greek Independence Day Parade, which will be held this year on Sunday, March 30, on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The parade is the largest Greek Independence Day parade outside of Greece itself.
The event also included a traditional performance from the Cretan Association Dancers, renditions of the Greek and U.S. national anthems by Christos Alexandrou and closing remarks from Demetrius Kalamaras, past president of the Federation of Hellenic Societies Of Greater New York.
Among the honored guests in attendance Friday evening were Father Nektarios Papazafiropoulos of St. Demetrios Cathedral in Astoria and several representatives from the consulates of Greece and Cyprus.
Greek Independence Day is celebrated on March 25. The day commemorates Greece’s declaration of independence from the Ottoman Empire on March 25, 1821.