Whitestone Greek festival gets Bloomberg’s blessing

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Traditional Greek food will be served in plentiful portions in Whitestone this weekend now that the city has approved street permits for the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church's annual festival.

The decision violated the wishes of Community Board 7, which urged the city to reject the church's largest event of the year that attracts thousands to the heart of Whitestone.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office gave the church permission to operate the festival with certain restrictions, said Deborah Markell Kleinert, the Queens director of the mayor's community assistance unit.

"Hopefully, it will be a smooth and successful event for all," Kleinert said. "We are trying to make sure all sides are happy, and hopefully we've done that."

The church will be allowed to sell alcohol as long as it is served in cups of a designated color, Kleinert said. Holy Cross can also offer rides, but the rides must be on its own property and not on the street, she said.

Greek music and street vendors will also be a part of the festival.

In years past the church at 150-05 12th Ave. has made use of both 12th Avenue and 150th Street during the four-day event.

This year 150th Street, which is on a bus route, cannot be used by the church on June 5, the first day of the festival.

Argie Giampilis, who sits on the church's parish council, thanked the mayor's office for approving the event.

"We're happy," she said. "It's our only fund-raiser that the church really does. It's the only way we get some income."

The community board, however, has a different perspective.

Last June's festival drew a large number of complaints, CB 7 Chair Eugene Kelty wrote in a letter last year to Mildred Duran, the director of the city's permit office.

Despite meetings between the community board and Holy Cross to keep the festival under control, the church broke some of its promises, Kelty wrote.

Holy Cross sold alcohol without the proper permits and operated rides during the entire festival, when it only had permission to run them for two days.

"Based upon the ... total disregard to the commitment made by the church and the noise and parking problems that this festival generates, Community Board 7 is officially going on record as disapproving any future street activity permits for Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church," Kelty wrote.

He could not be reached for comment following the mayor's decision.

The Rev. Protopresbyter Nickolas Kouvaris, the head of Holy Cross, defended the church, saying it had permits for the sale of alcohol, but they arrived late.

In April, the leaders of Community Board 7 and Holy Cross met with representatives of the mayor to try to come to an agreement.

A month later the mayor's office informed Holy Cross that the festival could go on.

Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who has questioned the church's operation of the festival in the past, said he would attend this year.

"It's a difficult situation," he said. "I am not going to second guess the mayor's office. It's an opportunity for the church to prove themselves."

The festival will take place on Thursday and Friday from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday from noon to 11 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 10 p.m.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300 Ext. 141.

Posted 7:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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