By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
For a history buff like Andrew Gounardes, working inside Borough Hall is a dream come true.
“It’s a great building. It was originally Brooklyn’s City Hall, so there’s a lot of history there,” Gounardes, the new counsel to Borough President Eric Adams, told the Brooklyn Eagle.
Gounardes knows a lot about the borough’s past. He is president of the Bay Ridge Historical Society. He said he is proud of that, given that he was born and raised in the community.
As counsel to the borough president, Gounardes, who started his new job on Monday, will handle all legal matters for Adams, everything from providing legal analysis to reviewing contracts and licensing agreements. Gounardes is also the head of the borough president’s policy unit, leading a team of four staff members in developing policy initiatives for Adams.
“It’s an exciting and challenging job,” Gournardes said.
But the job will force Gounardes to leave behind any political ambitions he might have, at least for the time being. Gounardes, a Democrat, ran against incumbent state Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southern Brooklyn) in 2012, winning the Bay Ridge portion of the district and impressing many people in politics. He will not be able to run for public office while holding his current job.
He also had to resign from Community Board 10 (Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights) where he had been a member for three years. The borough president’s office has jurisdiction over the community boards.
Gounardes, a member of Bay Ridge’s Greek-American community, is a member of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church and attended the church’s parochial school, the Dimitrios and Georgia Kaloidis School. “It gave me a strong foundation and it taught be the importance of community service,” he said.
Gounardes was a member of Boy Scout Troop 715, a troop sponsored by the church and is an assistant scout master today. He is also an Eagle Scout.
Following parochial school, he attended Fort Hamilton High School. When he decided to run fro the state senate two years ago, he made his announcement outside the school’s front gate.
He attended Hunter College, earning a bachelor’s degree in political science. During his college days, he worked as a constituent aide to Councilman Vincent Gentile. “I learned a lot there. And I enjoyed helping the constituents with issues like pothole repairs and street lights,” he said.
After college, Gounardes moved to Washington D.C., where he worked as an aide to US Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey while attending George Washington University Law School. “I wanted to go to law school because I believed that a law degree is a problem solving degree. People come to you with their problems and your job as a lawyer is to help them solve those problems,” he said.
Following his graduation from law school, Gounardes started pining for his hometown. “I missed living in Bay Ridge. You can’t get good pizza and bagels in Washington,” he said.
Upon his return to New York, he got a job at the Citizens Committee for New York City, a non-profit organization that awards micro-grants to community groups.
Gounardes is a founding member of Bay Ridge Cares, a group that assists Brooklyn residents facing difficulties. Bay Ridge Cares has held fundraisers for children with cancer and has organized food and clothing drives.
In the months following Superstorm Sandy, the group cooked thousands of meals for residents in hurricane damaged communities.