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Astoria playgrounds honor Greek culture

The city unveiled two new playgrounds last week at Astoria’s Athens Square Park, where a comfort station and a fence that will protect the park’s equipment are also in the works.

Community leaders and the city Parks Department cut the ribbon Friday on two playgrounds at Athens Square Park at 30th Street and 30th Avenue in Astoria.

Funds for the park include $1.5 million allocated from City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) as well as an additional $600,000 from Borough President Helen Marshall that will go toward future improvements.

“Athens Square Park has always offered a truly unique space for our community,” Vallone said. “We have now expanded on that by giving our kids the opportunity to brush up on their Greek philosophy while playing in a state-of-the-art playground.”

Adrian Benepe, the city’s Parks commissioner, said the new playgrounds honor Greek culture with their white stucco and orange- and blue-colored equipment as well as a sea-themed spray shower adorned with olive branches, fishing boats and sea creatures native to Greece.

Quotations from Greek philosophers can be found around the site’s play areas.

An estimated $500,000 allocated by Marshall is being used to upgrade the park’s comfort station while an additional $100,000 will go toward building a fence around the playground. Community residents have requested the site be locked at night.

The comfort station is expected to be completed by the end of the summer, Benepe said.

“Astoria is not only home to the best gyros, souvlaki and baklava, but to one of the most beautiful playgrounds in Queens,” he said.

Astoria residents had previously complained that youths were using Athens Square Park to skateboard, but the city has now broken ground on a skateboard park under the Triborough Bridge in Astoria Park that is expected to open in September.

In 2008, the Greek city of Halkidiki donated a bronze bust of the famous Greek philosopher Aristotle to Astoria. The bust sat in the office of George Stamatiades, president of the Stamatiades Funeral Home, before later being added to the park.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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