State Senate Candidate Andrew Gounardes Interview Part II: “A Williamsburg Culture Doesn’t Suit Bay Ridge”

10/18/2012 9:00 AM |

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Andrew Gounardes is running for the New York State Senate in the 22nd district, which covers Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Gerrtisen Beach, Marine Park, and parts of Gravesend and Sheepshead Bay. The seat has been held by Republican Marty Golden since 2002. He and I met at Pegasus diner on Third Avenue on October 12; he ordered a cup of cream of turkey and a Greek salad with chicken. We talked for an hour. Part one of our conversation, which focused on politics and policy, ran yesterday. In part two, we focus on Bay Ridge: its conservative reputation, its Marty Golden lawn signs, and its hot-button issues: hipsters, bike lanes, Brooklyn 11223, the food truck wars, and where to get the best slice.

Bay Ridge has a reputation as being pretty conservative. Do you think that’s accurate?
I don’t think that’s true at all. I think that was true at one point, but this is a neighborhood that’s changed dramatically. If you look at how the president did in 2008, just in Bay Ridge alone, he overwhelmingly won Bay Ridge. And across the entire district, he got 48.5 percent of the vote—which, 10 years ago, I don’t think he gets. I don’t think a president named Barack Obama gets 40 percent of the vote 10 years ago, and I don’t think a Democrat named Joe Smith gets 40 percent of the vote. So it really has become more progressive, more Democratic. But there’s also been a dramatic change in the face of Bay Ridge. We have a lot more younger families moving to the neighborhood who are getting priced out of other neighborhoods; we have younger professionals who are moving here, looking for a place to settle down, who can afford the rents in this neighborhood, who like that we have great restaurants and bars, a great waterfront, great park space and everything; we have a growing immigrant population. I forget where I read it—maybe I saw it on your site? But there was a link somewhere a few months ago saying that Bay Ridge and Bushwick were two of the most diverse neighborhoods in all of Brooklyn. And you wouldn’t think that if you just have the stereotype of the old Bay Ridge in your mind. But if ride the buses or ride the subways or go to the restaurants, you see that Bay Ridge is very, very diverse. And there many different ethnicities here and different groups in the community. And it’s going to continue to do that.

And I’ve also noticed, both seen and heard from other people, that there’s a growing LGBT community here in Bay Ridge. A lot of gay families are moving to this neighborhood. Now that’s also part of the general trend of people moving here because they’re getting priced out elsewhere, but people think that Bay Ridge is so hostile to the gay community, but you have a growing gay community here, which I think is very significant. It shows how much this neighborhood has changed.

When I walk around Bay Ridge, I feel like many blocks are just blanketed in Marty Golden lawn signs. Do you think that’s an accurate impression of support?
Lawn signs don’t vote. For every one house you see a Marty Golden sign at, there’s probably one whole apartment building who knows how bad Marty’s record is on housing issues, that is not gonna vote for a state senator who supports gutting everything. So I wouldn’t use lawn signs as a barometer of support.

I remember hearing a year or two ago that Marty Golden looked uniquely vulnerable this cycle.
This is an overwhelmingly Democratic district, by a two-to-one margin—45,000 more Democrats than Republicans. And that doesn’t mean anything unless they actually vote for Democratic candidates, which they do, 54 percent of the time. Or rather, the average Democratic candidate gets 54 percent of the vote. It’s not overwhelming, but it’s enough to win, comfortable. The challenge is getting someone to run against Golden; that’s been the thing.