2013-07-03 / Features

Independence Celebration Lights Up The Night


CALDC President George Stamatiades, CALDC Executive Director Marie Torniali, Councilmember Peter Valone Jr., City Comptroller John Liu and Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer lead the audience in the “National Anthem” sung by Rebecca Pacuk, granddaughter of Julie Wager. CALDC President George Stamatiades, CALDC Executive Director Marie Torniali, Councilmember Peter Valone Jr., City Comptroller John Liu and Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer lead the audience in the “National Anthem” sung by Rebecca Pacuk, granddaughter of Julie Wager. The Central Astoria Local Development Coalition’s (CALDC) 31st Annual Independence Day Celebration was held on

June 24, along the Astoria Park waterfront.

The celebration acts as the inaugural event of the Annual Waterfront Concert Series. The weather cooperated and provided a serene atmosphere for this year’s celebration, which attracted one of the largest crowds to date from across the five boroughs and beyond.

The celebration kicked off at 7:30 p.m. with a beautiful rendition of the “National Anthem” performed by Rebecca Pacuk, granddaughter of the late Julie Wager, who was the driving force behind the formation of the Annual Waterfront Concert Series. The Queens Symphony Orchestra, lead by director Constantine Kitsopoulos, entertained the crowd of 20,000 strong with a moving musical tribute to America, as an FDNY Fireboat sent water bursting into the air along the East River skyline amid the collective awe of the spectators.


The Queens Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Constantine Kitsopoulos played classical music while the Grucci fireworks show unfolded. The Queens Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Constantine Kitsopoulos played classical music while the Grucci fireworks show unfolded. Among the speakers at the event was Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr, a long-time champion of the Independence Celebration, who told the crowd, “I am so gratified to have been able to fund this event for the past 12 years. Again this year, this will be the only fireworks display over the East River and it will be spectacular.”

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer also addressed the crowd, saying that he would continue supporting the concerts in Astoria Park that draw so many people together in such a beautiful setting.


(L. to r.); CALDC President George Stamatiades, Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, CALDC Executive Director Marie Torniali and CALDC Vice President and Gazette Publisher Tony Barsamian. (L. to r.); CALDC President George Stamatiades, Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, CALDC Executive Director Marie Torniali and CALDC Vice President and Gazette Publisher Tony Barsamian. State Senator Michael Gianaris, who led the assembled in the Pledge of Allegiance, wished everyone a great Independence Day as did former Speaker of the City Council Peter Vallone Sr., Assemblymember Aravella Simotas and Congressmember Carolyn Maloney. City Comptroller John Lui and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer also attended.

CALDC President George Stamatiades, stated that “without the great support we receive, this event could not be possible. Councilmember Vallone and his father before him have long been sponsors of this event. Our corporate sponsors are most generous and we also thank them, as well as Councilmember Van Bramer and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall for their support.”


CALDC Executive Director Marie Torniali, Assemblymember Aravella Simotas and CALDC President George Stamatiades. CALDC Executive Director Marie Torniali, Assemblymember Aravella Simotas and CALDC President George Stamatiades. Executive Director Marie Torniali went on to say that the cooperative collaboration of the Parks Department led by Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski and Parks Manager Norman Chan, the 114th Precinct, under the command of Deputy Inspector Stephen Cirabisi with Community Affairs Officers Eddie Negron and Judge Coleman, and the Fire Department, ensure that the Independence Celebration and all the events in the park run smoothly.

The performance was just part of the entertainment of the night, leading up to a spectacular fireworks display presented by Fireworks by Grucci. The crowd was brought to its feet as the skies over the East River lit up with cascading chrysanthemums, crackling crosettes, and explosively beautiful brocade crowns set to a stirring patriotic soundtrack. CALDC’s fireworks continue to be the only display on the East River, providing stunning views of both the Hell Gate Bridge and RFK Triborough Bridge.


The spectacular fireworks show was provided by Grucci, which illuminated the Hell Gate Bridge and the East River. The spectacular fireworks show was provided by Grucci, which illuminated the Hell Gate Bridge and the East River. The event proved to be the most spectacular Independence Celebration in its 31-year history.



Candidates for Queens Borough President former Councilmember Melinda Katz and Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. Candidates for Queens Borough President former Councilmember Melinda Katz and Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.

(L. to r.); CALDC Executive Director Marie Torniali, Councilmembers Jimmy Van Bramer and Peter Vallone Jr., City Comptroller John Liu and CALDC President George Stamatiades. 
Office Of Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (L. to r.); CALDC Executive Director Marie Torniali, Councilmembers Jimmy Van Bramer and Peter Vallone Jr., City Comptroller John Liu and CALDC President George Stamatiades. Office Of Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.

Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr. enjoying the fireworks show with his father, former Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., his mother Tena and Congressmember Carolyn Maloney. Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr. enjoying the fireworks show with his father, former Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., his mother Tena and Congressmember Carolyn Maloney.

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