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Whitestone Greek fest draws many people, few gripes

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Thousands of people descended on Whitestone this weekend for the food, music and games at the annual Greek festival, which garnered few complaints as compared with the previous year.

This year’s festival, run by the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church, had been in doubt after the leadership of Community Board 7 requested that the city refuse its permits. Last year, the community board received many complaints about the event, the church’s primary fund-raiser.

But in recent months, the mayor’s office brokered a deal between Holy Cross and the community.

This year’s event appears to have gone more smoothly than its 2002 version.

“I think the only thing they had was a few cars that were parked in people’s driveways,” said Marilyn Bitterman, district manager of Community Board 7. “That was the extent of it. Other than that, no complaints.”

Argie Giampilis, who sits on the church’s parish council, also said the event had few problems.

“We went by the rules,” she said.

Last year’s festival was somewhat controversial. Some residents complained the festival was noisy, while others said the four-day event caused congestion in the area of 12th Avenue and 150th Street, where the church is located.

The community board was particularly upset with the gathering. In a letter to the city, Eugene Kelty, chairman of CB 7, said his organization had met with Holy Cross members before the event, asking them to make sure they had the proper permits.

Despite the meeting, the church did not have alcohol permits and operated rides for two days without a permit, Kelty said.

Kelty recommended the city deny any permits to Holy Cross that would allow use of the streets surrounding the church.

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

He also said the rides operated on days when the permits were in effect.

In the weeks before this year’s festival, the city informed Holy Cross that the event could go on with certain restrictions. Alcohol had to be sold in properly colored cups, and rides had to be offered on church grounds only.

But this weekend, those who attended and organized the festival did not dwell on permits and traffic congestion, but on having a good time.

“It’s always a lot of fun,” said Roula Vlahos, as she prepared Loukoumades, fried balls of dough made with honey and cinnamon. “I like to give something back to the community.”

Demetrios Daviotis, chairman of the festival, said the gathering reminded him of the baklava his mother used to make back in Greece.

“The event is done to unite people, bring them together,” he said. “We teach the next generation about their background, their heritage.”

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

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