Democrat Andrew Gounardes, who ran against Republican state Sen. Marty Golden six years ago and impressed political observers with his strong showing in Bay Ridge, is itching for a rematch.
But Gounardes’ attention these days is not solely focused on Golden.
Gounardes, a lawyer, is running against fellow Democrat Ross Barkan, a political journalist, in the Sept. 13 primary to win the Democratic Party’s nomination in the 22nd State Senate District.
Gounardes already has endorsements from the Reform Party and the Working Families Party, so he will appear on the ballot no matter what happens on Sept. 13. But a win in the Democratic primary would set up the one-on-one rematch with Golden he wants.
In 2012, Gounardes ran for Senate and received more votes than Golden did in the Bay Ridge portion of the district. Golden won the race because of his strength in other areas of the district, like Marine Park and Gerritsen Beach. The district also includes Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and Gravesend.
Gounardes has raised $260,000 for his 2018 campaign, he told this newspaper in an interview on Aug. 21. He boasted that he has more in-district donors than either Barkan or Golden. More than 40 percent of his campaign contributions are from people who live in the district and most of those are small donations, $25 or less, he said.
Gounardes, a lifelong Bay Ridge resident who serves as chief counsel to Borough President Eric Adams, said there are two main reasons why Democrats should vote for him in the primary: the strong grassroots campaign he has built and his record of civic activism.
“I am the best candidate to beat Marty Golden and flip this seat. I have built a strong coalition across every corner of the district,” Gounardes said, adding that he has endorsements from numerous elected officials and labor unions.
Gounardes said he has been deeply involved in the community for many years “and not just at election time.”
He is a former member of Community Board 10 and served as president of the Bay Ridge Historical Society. A current member of the Riders Alliance, he formed a group called Concerned R Train Riders to fight for better service on the subway line that serves Bay Ridge. He also started a group called Bay Ridge Advocates for Keeping Everyone Safe, or BRAKES, to push for pedestrian safety measures on streets.
Gounardes is a graduate of Fort Hamilton High School and Hunter College. He earned his law degree at George Washington University Law School. He is a member of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church.
To Gounardes, the three biggest issues in the district are education funding, pedestrian safety and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).
“Albany shortchanges our schools,” he said, adding that he would fight to ensure New York City schools get their fair share of funding.
His education platform includes a proposal for statewide pre-kindergarten programs. He said he wants to make quality education from pre-k to college a constitutional right in New York State.
Gounardes supports the Cuomo administration’s Excelsior Scholarship program, which provides free tuition to students attending the State University of New York (SUNY) or the City University of New York (CUNY), but said the program has restrictions that prevent most students from enjoying its benefits.
Because of the requirement that students take a full course load each semester, the program hurts students who have to work and do not take a full course load, he said. “I think people who need the assistance the most aren’t getting it,” he said, adding that he would seek to expand the program to all CUNY and SUNY students.
Pedestrians are in danger from reckless drivers, Gounardes said. To address the situation, he is calling on New York State to revoke the licenses of dangerous drivers who receive numerous speeding tickets. “If you get five speeding tickets in a year, it should be grounds for license suspension,” he told this newspaper.
Gounardes wants streets redesigned to make them pedestrian friendly, including installing large curbs at intersections. He also said there should be an education campaign aimed at drivers. “When you renew your license, you should take a refresher course,” he said.
As he campaigns across the district, he has heard many residents express frustration with the MTA.
“The biggest problem of the MTA is the lack of accountability to riders,” Gounardes said.
His proposed solution is to reconfigure the MTA board to include five members of the riding public. “We should give riders from every borough a vote on the board,” he said.
Looking ahead to Bay Ridge’s future, Gounardes is proposing the creation of a waterfront park along Shore Road Promenade. “It could be the crown jewel,” he said.