Simotas Moderates “Astoria: Then and Now”


For Immediate Release

November 21, 2012

Contact: Samantha Darche, 718-545-3889

Simotas Moderates “Astoria: Then and Now”

Interfaith Center Hosts Discussion of Diversity and Tolerance in Astoria

             ASTORIA, NY- Last Wednesday, Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas moderated a discussion of the past, present and future of our multicultural community hosted by the Interfaith Center of New York.  The program held at the Bohemian Hall was open to the whole community and included film, photography and a panel discussion about Astoria.

The diverse panel was made up of Astoria residents Joe DiPietro, President of the Federation of Italian American Organizations of Queens; Moustafa Elshiekh, CEO and Founder of AmeriPeace and EIHAB Human Services; Susie Loukis, a lifelong Astoria resident and an invaluable parishioner and member of the St. Catherine and George Greek Orthodox Church; Mizanur Rahman, an organizer with Documentary Watchers.  Each spoke about their experience coming to Astoria, many as new immigrants to America.  “What is striking is how similar each panelist’s experience was,” Simotas noted.  “Whether emigrating from Greece, Italy, Egypt or Bangladesh, each told stories of struggling to fit in because of language and cultural barriers and finding comfort among people of similar backgrounds before integrating into the larger community.”

“Staff of The Interfaith Center of New York were very pleased with the turnout for “Astoria Then And Now,” and are deeply grateful to Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, Councilmember Peter Vallone, Jr., and all of the community members who helped make the evening a great success, and who shared their stories of making a home in Astoria,” said Annie Rawlings, Director of Outreach and Program Administration for the Interfaith Center of New York.  “The Interfaith Center’s mission is to increase respect and mutual understanding among people of different faith, ethnic, and cultural traditions; and to make connections between grassroots communities and leaders of civil society.   On November 14, our mission was beautifully realized as neighbors, some of them civil society leaders, gathered and shared their experiences, and their Astoria pride.”

The Assemblywoman shared her own story of coming to Astoria. “My parents brought me to Astoria when I was about the age my daughter is now to start a new life.  Here, like tonight’s panelists, we found community, friends and with a lot of hard work, success,” Simotas said.


Samantha Darche
Chief of Staff
Assemblymember Aravella Simotas
36th Assembly District
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