By Paula Katinas
The Bay Ridge Historical Society, a group founded the same year the nation celebrated the Bicentennial, has started a new era with the election of a new president. Andrew Gounardes, a lawyer and Bay Ridge civic activist, was chosen to serve as the new president by the organization’s members at a recent meeting.
“I’m very excited. This organization has done a lot of great things. It has become part of the fabric of the community,” Gounardes told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
Gounardes has set an ambitious agenda for his first term as president. One goal is to “make Bay Ridge history come alive” by seeking public recognition of the neighborhood’s historic sites so that average citizens can become aware of the history right in their midst.
Those sites include the Fort Hamilton Army Base, which opened in 1825, the Farrell House, a home on 95th Street built in the Greek Revival style in 1849, and the Fort Hamilton Library, a 1905 structure that is one of the original 21 “Carnegie Libraries,” that were built by in New York City with a grant from the Carnegie Corporation. The corporation, found by steel baron Andrew Carnegie, gave the grant to the city in 1899.
The block of Senator Street between Third and Fourth Avenues is known for its handsome brownstones. The Senator Street Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.
Gounardes said he would like to see Bay Ridge history taught in local schools. “We could have a Bay Ridge Day in the schools. Lessons about Bay Ridge could become part of the curriculum,” he said.
The new president said he hopes to bring “more energy and dynamism” to the historical society by recruiting younger members. “There’s a lot of potential here,” he said.
Gounardes, an Eagle Scout, is a graduate of Fort Hamilton High School, Hunter College and George Washington University Law School. He recently served as director of external affairs for the Citizens Committee for New York City. While a student at Fort Hamilton High School, he was chosen to serve as the first student advisor on the New York City Department of Education’s Panel for Educational Policy. Gounardes is a currently member of Community Board 10 and the Riders Alliance, a group that lobbies for better transit services in New York City.
In addition to Gounardes, other officers were elected by the historical society. Jerry Hoffman, a former history teacher at Adelphi Academy and author of the Bay Ridge Chronicles, a book about the community’s history, was elected to serve as first vice president. Matthew Scarpa, a graduate of Fort Hamilton High School, and the new author and editor of a book featuring a collection of vintage Bay Ridge postcards, was tapped as second vice president.
Charles Caloia, a recent graduate of Xaverian High School, is the group’s new secretary. Caloia, a former historical society intern, was one of the editors of Xaverian’s literary magazine, The Voyager. Peter Scarpa, a past president of the historical society and author of books on Bay Ridge, was re-elected as the group’s treasurer
The Bay Ridge Historical Society was founded in 1976. In 2003, the historical society worked Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) to lead a community wide celebration marking the 150th anniversary of Bay Ridge receiving its name. Prior to 1853, the neighborhood was known as Yellow Hook.