Ed Koch said of Athens Square Park, “it is the first time an ethnic community got together to build a monument in New York City.”
He was right, except the park has grown into so much more than just one monument. The project started nearly thirty years with just three members of the community: Dennis Syntilas, George Delis, and George Stamatiades, and had the backing of Peter Vallone Sr. The idea behind Athens Square Park was to create a neighborhood park, that was “a little bit of Athens in Astoria.” The idea was pushed by Astoria’s sizable Greek population, many of whom had immigrated to Astoria after the Greek Civil War.
Athens Square Park is right near Henry David Thoreau elementary school, and with it’s basketball courts and jungle gyms, is a welcome haven for many Astoria children.
The first statue was unveiled in 1993; a statue of the philosopher Socrates. The statue cost $108,000, all of which was raised by the committee of the park.
Next came the three fluted Doric columns supporting a curved entablature, all of granite, which were installed adjacent to the amphitheater in 1996.
In May of 1998, Greece presented Athens Square Park with an exact replica of an Athena statue they had unearthed, finally bringing a true piece of Greece to the park.
Most recently, the bust of Sophocles was unveiled in 2008. The final statue of Athens Square Park is set to be unveiled in October of this year. This decades long project will finally be completed, and Astoria will have it’s own, personal, little piece of Greece.