Greek School of Plato to build community center
Hundreds gather at 92nd St. site to mark groundbreaking
In a ceremony that demonstrated the size and strength of Bay Ridge’s vibrant Greek-American community, hundreds of people gathered at a construction site on Sunday to mark the groundbreaking for a new community center for the Greek School of Plato.
The new three-story community center, which will be built at 670 92nd St., down the street from Poly Prep Country Day School, will house educational and cultural programs important to the Greek-American community, according to representatives of the Greek School of Plato.
Founded in 1977, the Greek School of Plato offers lessons for children and teenagers in the Greek language, literature, history, theater, folk dance, music and religion. The school is currently located at 479 81st St. in Bay Ridge.
Kirk Tzanides, a former chairperson of Community Board 10, served as master of ceremonies for the groundbreaking. Using Greek mythology to make his point, Tzanides said the supporters of the new community center are “joining the immortal Spartans as today’s defenders of Thermopylae.”
The ceremony started off with a traditional Greek Orthodox blessing led by the Very Rev. Damaskinos Ganas and the Rev. Melitios Bougas.
A number of local elected officials attended the event, including state Sen. Marty Golden, Assemblymembers Peter Abbate and Pamela Harris, Councilmember Vincent Gentile, as well as Nicholas Chamberas representing Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, and Andrew Gounardes representing Borough President Eric Adams.
Several of the speakers talked about the legacy of the Greek School of Plato as well as the important role the new community center will play in civic life.
“A testament to Plato’s success is evidenced by the continuous enrollment of the children of our alumni,” said Tina Demetis, past president of the Parent-Teacher Organization.
Board member Maria Abazis thanked the board, parents, teachers, donors, investors and members of the school’s Capital Campaign Committee “for the work they are embarking on to make this amazing new design a reality.”
Spiro Geroulanos, chairman of the construction committee, said the new community center will be open to the entire neighborhood, not just the students from the Greek School of Plato. “By constructing this new building we will be ensuring that Plato will serve as a beacon for this community and for all families for decades to come,” he said.
A highlight of the ceremony came when Vasiliki Christakos, a 7-year-old student, talked about how much the school meant to her. The youngster said she had two families: her home family and her Greek school family.
Bobby Geroulanos, an entrepreneur who contributed $1 million toward the construction of the community center, said he was motivated to make the donation because he grew up in a poor household in Greece and found that education was what put him on a path toward success in life.
With the groundbreaking ceremony, the effort to raise money to construct the new community center will kick into overdrive. The goal, according to representatives, is to raise $5.3 million. To date $2.5 million in donations and pledges has been received.
The plans for the new facility did not come without controversy, however.
In 2014, Community Board 10 voted to recommend that the city approve the proposal over the strong objections of local residents who charged that a large building would be out of character with smaller surrounding houses.
The school was required to bring the matter before the community board because the height and density of the proposed new building would technically violate zoning regulations. The school was seeking a zoning variance from the city to move ahead with the project.
The vote in favor of the project took place after a marathon meeting attended by more than 100 vocal residents.
The 92nd Street site formerly housed a one-story medical center.