By Nathan Duke
City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and the city's Parks Department unveiled a new bronze bust Saturday of the famous Greek philosopher Aristotle at Astoria's Athens Square Park. The statue, a gift from the Greek city of Halkidiki, had been sitting in the office of George Stamatiades, president of the Stamatiades Funeral Home. In his role as a member of Community Board 1, Stamatiades had spent two years seeking the necessary $60,000 for the sculpture's maintenance.”This park is a prominent symbol of Greek culture and we are happy to add another famous occupant,” said Vallone, who secured the money for the upkeep of the sculpture.CB 1 District Manager George Delis said the sculpture, crafted by Greek sculptor George Tsaras, was shipped to the United States two years ago. City permits that would have allowed it to be placed in Athens Square Park, at 30th Street and 30th Avenue, were not complete at that time. The city requires that money must be in place for the maintenance of a statue before it is erected.The 7-feet-10-inches Aristotle bust joins sculptures of Greek philosopher Socrates, which was created at the Modern Art Foundry in Astoria, and ancient Greek goddess of wisdom Athena, which was given as a gift to the neighborhood by former Athens Mayor Demetris Avramopoulos in 1998, at the park.”In the spirit of Aristotle's words, 'The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.' This sculpture is a little piece of Greece to our parks,” Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said.Delis said he is now seeking money to place a sculpture of Greek playwright Sophocles at Athens Square Park. He said the sculpture, estimated to cost $120,000, would probably be unveiled within two years.The city's Board of Education acquired Athens Square Park in 1963 and created a playground for PS 17. In 1990, the park underwent a $1 million renovation to become a meeting place for Astoria's Greek residents.Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.