Gounardes plans oath of office ceremony close to home

Three weeks into his term, Democratic state Sen. Andrew Gounardes will return to his old high school in Bay Ridge this Sunday for a ceremonial swearing-in event where he is expected to talk about what he has accomplished in Albany so far and lay out his agenda.

In a ceremony at Fort Hamilton High School on Sunday, Jan. 27, Gounardes will take a symbolic oath of office surrounded by family, friends, supporters, community leaders and fellow elected officials. The event is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.

Gounardes, his mother Dianne, and his two siblings are all Fort Hamilton graduates. The high school is also the place where Gounardes first tried his hand at politics, according to his communications director, Evan Weinberg.

“Fort Hamilton has played a large part in shaping Andrew to the person he is today,” Weinberg told this newspaper. “In addition, to his family attending, including his mom, Andrew ran for student body president.”

Gounardes was officially sworn into office on Jan. 9 in the state Senate chamber in Albany. The Jan. 27 ceremony will give him the opportunity to take an oath of office close to home and invite members of the community to help him mark the occasion.

Gounardes will take the oath of office from former City Councilmember Vincent Gemtile. Gentile served as state senator prior to winning a Council seat in 2003.

The guest speakers are an interesting mix of elected officials and constituents. State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Bay Ridge Councilmember Justin Brannan and Gentile are all scheduled to speak, along with a constituent, Gina Nipalitano.

Gounardes, who defeated longtime Republican state Sen. Marty Golden in a bitterly fought contest in the 22nd Senate District in November, has hit the ground running in his first weeks in Albany, according to leaders of Bay Ridge Democrats, the political club that backed him in his Senate run.

In an email to members, the Bay Ridge Democrats pointed out that Gounardes has co-sponsored or cast votes to reform the state’s election laws, protect transgender individuals from discrimination, adopt the Reproductive Health Act to ensure safe access to abortion and authorize the Dream Act to allow undocumented immigrants who are already students in school to qualify for state aid for college.

“I am proud to be a co-sponsor and help pass the Dream Act. This legislation is abt fairness & allows children who have grown up in our neighborhoods, been educated in our public schools, and contribute to our economy to be eligible for the same college assistance programs,” Gounardes tweeted on Jan. 22.

In another tweet, Gounardes pointed to another vote he took, one to assist furloughed workers struggling to make ends meet during the federal government shutdown.

“Another big day in Albany! The New York State Senate just passed a bill to temporarily extend payment of property taxes owed by furloughed federal employees. We proudly stand with New Yorkers being unfairly hurt by the federal shutdown,” he tweeted.

Gounardes is also settling into his role as chairperson of the Senate’s Civil Service and Pensions Committee. In an ironic twist, that’s the same post Golden held when he was in the Senate.

Gounardes’ district takes in all or parts of several Brooklyn neighborhoods, including Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Manhattan Beach, Gerritsen Beach and Marine Park.

But nearly two months into his term, Gounardes has yet to open a district office. The senator told this newspaper at a recent event in Bensonhurst that he is actively looking for space and hoped to open an office soon to serve constituents.

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