BAY RIDge – Andrew Gournardes is looking to unseat long-time State Sen. Marty Golden of the 22nd State Senate District in Southern Brooklyn. The area includes the neighborhoods of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Marine Park, Gerritsen Beach, Gravesend and parts of Sheepshead Bay, Borough Park and Midwood.
Gounardes was born and raised in Bay Ridge. He is a graduate of Hunter College and The George Washington University Law School. Currently, he is on leave as chief counsel for Borough President Eric Adams, for whom he has worked for since 2014.
We asked him some questions, here’s what he said:
Q. The Southern Brooklyn community is very divided now. In this climate of hate and fear, what are you planning to do to bring the community together?
A. Hate and fear can be overcome. My office will be open to the community, including on evenings and weekends, and I’ll have multilingual staff. I will work hard to make sure everyone can feel they belong here, regardless of who they are, where they come from, when they came here, who they love, what their faith is, and what they believe in. I believe that there is more that unites us than divides us. We all want a safe community, the best possible education for our children, efficient transport, and good care for our seniors.
Our community events like street festivals and concerts are well-loved and I’ll sponsor more of them. I will also bring the community together at an annual Community Convention where people can get to know each other, share information, and learn about the different ideas, projects, and initiatives happening across our neighborhoods. My “Three for the Community” community service campaign will encourage everyone to take three different actions each week to help their neighbors out. This can be as simple as shoveling a neighbor’s sidewalk, volunteering for a park cleanup, or supporting a community non-profit. There’s no shortage of things we can all do, big and small, to improve our community.
We are already a strong community – we saw that in the way everyone pitched in to help each other after Superstorm Sandy – but we can be stronger and more inclusive.
Q. On healthcare, your opponent said a universal health care approach will “bankrupt” the state. Explain how implementing affordable healthcare will not dramatically burden New Yorkers.
A. My opponent is the kind of person who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing. How can we afford not to care for our neighbors? New York is the 13th largest economy in the whole world. I will seek out and crack down on fraud, waste, and abuse of public money. Affordable healthcare is about priorities – do we want to give tax breaks to luxury property developers, or do we want to make sure all hard-working New Yorkers have access to quality affordable medical care and that no one in our community has to sell cupcakes to pay for their cancer treatments? I will choose the health of my neighbors every time.
Q. What are the biggest issues facing your district? And what are you planning to do about them?
A. Pedestrian safety is a huge issue. Brooklyn families lost more loved ones to traffic accidents last year than any other Borough. No one should have to live in fear of crossing the street. I have been fighting for speed cameras in school zones for years, and when I get to Albany, no one will work harder than me to make sure our roads are safe for all pedestrians, motorists, and cyclists.
Additionally, Southern Brooklyn is starved for reliable, accessible public transport. My plan to fix the subway includes putting elected rider representatives on the MTA board to give riders a voice and accelerating the building of accessible stations so all New Yorkers can use the subway easily.
Furthermore, education is the most important investment we can make to set our children up with the best start in life. Our schools are overcrowded and teachers are being forced to dip into their own pockets to buy classroom resources. The courts have ruled that our schools are owed tens of millions of dollars, but the Republicans in Albany have not fought for that funding. I will fight for school funding, but my opponent has said he doesn’t think schools need a single dollar more than they already have. I also want to see a new Specialized High School built in our district, so our children don’t have to travel for hours every week to and from school.
I have released nineteen policy platforms, more than any other candidate in Southern Brooklyn. There is no shortage of issues that face our community and I’m excited to work with the community to build a better Southern Brooklyn.
Q. You tout a progressive agenda. How do you expect to represent the long-standing Conservative and Republican members in the district?
I’m running on a common sense platform. It’s simply common sense that our streets should be safe, our schools shouldn’t be overcrowded, and hard-working families should be able to afford a decent place to live. I will listen to everyone in my district, no matter what their personal politics are. Being elected to public office means serving the public and putting people before politics. My door will always be open to my constituents, whether they agree with me or not. And I will hold regular “Senator in the Street” meetings around the district to hear from locals.
Q. Favorite restaurants?
A. We’ve got a lot of great local restaurants to choose from but if I have to choose I’ll say Casa Calamari, just across the road from my campaign office, Cebu, Elia, Ho’Brah, and Tanoreen on 3rd Ave.
Gounardes will face State Sen. Marty Golden in the upcoming Nov. 6. general election.