In Nick Andriotis’s actions we are witnessing the first elements of a scheme that explains the Archdiocese’s indifference in the emptying pews of our churches: Their real goal has to do with the management (and possibly sale) of community property and not with the real work of the Church of Christ.

By Nick Stamatakis

As Jerry Demetriou, the indicted former finance director of GOA is reported to have a court date on March 20 in the Manhattan District Court and as the Feds have indicated clearly that their investigation of several GOA financial scandals is continuing, it is time to look at similar schemes of financial corruption throughout numerous Greek Orthodox parishes, especially in the wealthy Northeast. The most prominent of all GOA parishes is St. Demetrios of Astoria, New York, traditionally thought to have functioned as “communicating vessels” with the Archdiocese itself.  Just consider that Nick Andriotis, the longtime “strong man” of the community, was the “Grand Underwriter” of Elpidophoros’ enthronement, contributing $100,000, while his partner at Alma Realty/Alma Bank, Steve Valiotis, added another $50,000… We should also not forget that Alma Bank holds the mortgage of the East 79th street Archdiocesan headquarters – with a remaining balance of about $4.5 million.(*)

St. Demetrios of Astoria is the only GOA parish in the country to operate its own K-12 parochial school (operating as a high school since 1975), a school with a long history and distinct symbolic significance: Not only it is the only Greek Orthodox high school in the country, but many of the currently serving GOA hierarchs, clergy and other community leaders are its graduates.  With a total budget of over $7 million ($5.5 million for the school), the community commands substantial financial power, big enough to attract the attention of questionable characters, at the same time as it attracts the attention of generous donors. The school’s buildings alone are evaluated at over $80 million and are free of any mortgage obligations.

Such is the setting where Nick Andriotis, who has been serving either as the parish council president or the school board president for as long as anyone can remember, developed all his self-promoting schemes. Andriotis, about 80 years old, has been the dominant figure in St. Demetrios for over four decades. He has been acting as a dictator, manipulating the organization in every imaginable way, politically and financially. He managed to marginalize any voice of opposition; he has been especially rough on anyone who happened to be more formally educated than him – which is basically almost all of the younger, less than 60 years old, parishioners. And he has been acting more like a mafioso than a parish official. In the one and only interview I was able to have with Andriotis, he was quite blunt: “You cannot apply democracy in running Greek communities”, an attitude matching perfectly those who are recently trashing Orthodoxy’s centuries’ old democratic/synodical history and practice…

To understand him one has to read his autobiography (“My Life Without Vestments” – in Greek), where he openly describes the ways he employed over the years to silence his opponents.  He started in 1982 by kicking out Mr. Triantafyllou, the then principal, arguably one of the most highly educated first generation Greek Americans; Triantafyllou had been the central figure in establishing the St.Demetrios high school. Andriotis’s actions against Triantafyllou resulted in demonstrations of beloved “Mr T’s” supporters outside the School. In the end, banking on the fact that normal people, who run businesses and have a family life, do not have time to deal with thuggish behavior, Andriotis was the final winner. Many parishioners left St. Demetrios then and the school’s enrollment dropped from over 1400 in 1982 to where it is today – about 550…

Andriotis kept on kicking out anyone who would stand in his way to achieve complete control of the community.  At least four cases have come to my attention over the years, while even today he keeps playing the same game. A natural manipulator, hiding very diligently his inner insecurities, he has been displaying all the symptoms of personality disorders we all have seen in “The Godfather”. Alas, the experience in real life is not as enjoyable as in the movies…

And so he became the “dictator of Astoria”…  To describe the multiple “conflicts of interest” in a “non-profit” (501c3) community, would not do justice to the Nick Andriotis case: He is keeping important parish records in his office at Alma Realty. Even today, when he is holding no official position at the parish, (being recently reduced to “honorary” president), he is the first to receive a copy of the budget, as well as all other financial records.  Just a phone call to “the girls” (the secretaries) and everything goes his way. Should I add that Alma Bank and Atlantic Bank, had their local branch managers serve as parish council members up to a few months ago, at the same time as they were doing business with the parish? “Conflict of interest” is truly an understatement…  A brief outline of Andriotis’s methods, as well as his actions, might prove more helpful.

The School Principal Mr.Koularmanis

For the last 20 years Andriotis had been using Mr.Koularmanis, his hand-picked school principal, to apply threats on all school employees, teachers, parents and children.  Mr.Koularmanis had been reported to us by many parents and teachers – and even children – to act as a real thug, terrorizing the community and causing the community to lose untold amounts of cash, totaling millions of dollars over his tenure, which ended last December 31.  I detailed his actions in many articles throughout 2019 (recently the story was summarized here – in Greek). Abusing the community’s finances through the use of a credit card was the lightest of his numerous schemes; A “petty cash” account with over $60,000 (!!), self-rewarding himself with raises of tens of thousands without proper approval; Hiring his relative, a former hairdresser, to work at the kindergarten (!!); Hiring other relatives, none of whom had any educational background; getting 10% commission for automatically approved NY State grants;  Working daily 9am-2pm – how can you run a school in five hours of work? At two occasions I called the school at 2.45pm and nobody answered, not even a voicemail..

Mr.Koularmanis, was hired by Mr.Elpidophoros a few months ago as the new Education Director (a useless office that should have closed long ago). He was also “installed” as president of the dying parish in Corona (Queens), which happens to have a large real estate property and he was given permission to hire friends and relatives as the parish council members. Persistent rumors have Corona unite with the Jackson Heights parish, another dying community nearby… For the last 6 months since his installment, he is reported to have never appeared in the Corona community, not even once for Sunday service.  He is also part of the Cathedral’s (Manhattan) school board.  And he insisted to stay as “consultant” at the Astoria School – which the parish council refused.  Does anyone see the “grand plan” by the Archdiocese here?

The $25 million Niarchos Foundation Grant

The highlight of Andriotis’ cooperation with Koularmanis took place over the last three years, after the Niarchos Foundation announced a $25 million grant to the St.Demetrios School.  The grant required that the school be taken away from the parish and become a charter school. Without the school, the Astoria parish would soon deteriorate to an insignificant gathering of old people…  This was obvious to all, except Andriotis who, assisted by his partner at Alma Bank/Alma Realty, Steve Valiotis, wanted to take control of the school’s $5.5 annual budget.  They asked for the help of A.Diamataris, the now disgraced TNH publisher, who, smelling easy money, offered his help.  Koularmanis, although not a parish official, was soon representing the parish in the negotiations with the Niarchos Foundation.  The scheme was brilliant in its simplicity:

  • The $25 million would be deposited in Alma Bank injecting much needed capital. In return the school would get $800.000 annually, a “below market” return, to put it mildly….
  • The school would collect many millions of N.Y. State grants and other funding available to charter schools.
  • The school board would consist of salaried members suggested by the Alma “Family” and Diamataris. Both Alma and Diamataris would benefit from school expenses for “repairs/maintenance” and “advertising”, not to mention the charitable donations “schemes”…
  • The school’s principle would be Koularmanis, hoping to double his current salary totaling about $200,000 per year (charter schools do not have a “salary cap”).
  • The parish would get $10-12,000 a month for the use of its $80 million school buildings (!!), not to mention the use of the established good name for decades…

Luckily, a team of new leaders, who miraculously took control of the parish council early in 2019, managed to avert – so far – the loss of the school to the parish.  But the transgressors behind this effort, are now openly helped by the Archdiocese; they have not yet given up and are still today trying to achieve their goal.

The 2015 Tambakis Building Donation

In July 2015 orthopedic doctor Apostolos Tambakis donated to the School a commercial property in Wantagh (Long Island), consisting of 10 office suites and evaluated at $700.000.  Dr. Tambakis had purchased the property in 2004 for $332.500. He insisted that the building’s revenue (about $110K annually) be used to benefit the St. Demetrios School. As the property needed renovation, Alma Realty took over the building (Did you say the word “bid”? Forget it, such word does not exist in Astoria… The first time the words “conflict of interest” were mentioned in the community was after I published an article early last year!..)

Two years later, in 2017, to everyone’s surprise, Andriotis announced at the parish council that “he had found a good prospective buyer”.  He found little opposition as he previously had gotten rid of any serious community leader.  Some voices suggested that the market in Long Island is “hot”, rising 5-10% a year; others dared say that $110K/yr is a good income for the School… But Andriotis was unstoppable.  It took 18 months to get the approval of the State A.G…  But in the end, he sold the building in 2019 for…$700.000, the same value recorded four years earlier…

How could someone manage to sell a freshly renovated building in a hot real estate market for the same price as four years ago? Let Nick Andriotis answer this question, after all he is the real estate “professional”.  For all of us who want an objective measure of comparison, here is a look at Nassau County’s real property valuations, which show that for the year 2021 the fair market value for the building will be $947.000!! This “value”, mostly needed for tax assessment, is usually below the actual value of the property…

Regarding Alma Realty’s “credibility”, should I remind everyone that they are at the top of the list of the worst landlords in NYC? (here and here)…

Engaged with the former TNH publisher Diamataris forever…

Andriotis’ deceitful career over four decades would not be feasible without help from the community press, dominated for a long time by “The National Herald”. It was because of help by Diamataris, the now disgraced former TNH publisher and former undersecretary of foreign affairs of Greece, that he “achieved” his goals.  References to Diamataris outnumber the pages of Andriotis’s autobiography (mentioned above)…  Clearly, it was “a marriage made in heaven”… Should I mention that TNH’s advertising revenue from St.Demetrios was $20-30,000 annually? Should I also point out that in my 35 years of following the community news (7 of which I was the main editorial writer for TNH) I never saw not one sentence, not one line, not one word against Father Alex printed in TNH?…  Do these facts explain why Patriarch Barholomew, Elpidophoros and all other members of the “gang” are trying to keep Diamataris “alive”, even after his disgraceful “resignation” (actually removal from office during his …flight to Australia) when he refused to accept responsibility for his fake MBA from Columbia among other scandals?

To ask Andriotis to reimburse the Astoria community for all his wrongdoings is probably a big empty statement.  What Andriotis, Karloutsos, Diamataris, Koularmanis and the rest of the lawbreakers need to do is come out and come clean and relieve the Greek community of their presence…  Before the Feds and other prosecutors force them to do so.  The end of their “career” in the community is approaching very fast…

January 17, 2020,   n.stamatakis@aol.com

(*) It is widely believed that Alma Bank, controlled by Valiotis, was the only financial institution willing to “bank” the near insolvent archdiocese and currently holds the newly held mortgage on 8-10 East 70th Street (an emergency cash infusion of $6 million to prevent bankruptcy – but which leaves ALMA in control of a unique and historic property near 5th Avenue and Central Park in the Upper East Side). Let’s also not forget that, just after the Feds announced the investigation, Chase quickly announced it was severing all business ties with the GOA.

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