One day after his narrow victory over State Senator Marty Golden, Andrew Gounardes traveled 16 miles from his district to thank street safety advocates for putting him, and a central issue, on the map.
“Without you, I’d just be a guy on a soapbox,” he told members of Families for Safe Streets gathered at Columbia University for the annual Vision Zero Cities conference. “But you brought this into the political mainstream. So thank you for your tireless work.”
Gounardes’s victory lap came as votes were still being counted from Tuesday night. Preliminary results show him up by 1,129 votes with roughly 1,400 paper ballots yet to be counted. Golden has neither conceded or called the man who defeated him. He put out a statement saying he was “assessing the ballot situation — machine and absentee — to ensure that every vote is counted.”
That left Gounardes supporters to cheer the defeat of Golden, who had long been a street safety pariah, but enraged activists over the summer when he said he supported an expansion of the city’s speed camera program only to introduce his own bill to end the program.
“On top of that, he was speeding excessively,” said Transportation Alternatives Co-director Marco Conner, referring to the 14 camera violations slapped on Golden’s car in four years.
Conner hailed the work of Families for Safe Streets, which targeted Golden all summer. To draw attention to road violence — some of it committed by Golden himself — activists delivered pudding to his Bay Ridge office (as in “the proof is in…”), held a 24-hour vigil, deployed schoolkids to offer him coffee early one morning (as in “wake up and smell the…”), and walked a marathon around his office.
“Long story short: We won,” Conner said. “It shows that safe streets are a winning policy to fight for. We have an epidemic of traffic violence in this city. … Andrew recognized that it’s a matter of life and death.”
Gounardes said the issue is personal for him — his grandmother lost a daughter to a crash even before he was born — but it’s also political.
“If you look at social media pages of the parent groups, you see that every night, there are parents on they’re talking about speeding at their child’s school, and drag racing, and poor traffic enforcement and how many near-misses they have with cars,” he said. “It’s not a radical notion to keep our streets safe for everyone. Logic tells me that if we have 2,000 schools in New York City, we should have 2,000 speed cameras.”
Streetsblog asked Gounardes if he really felt livable streets activists really put him over the top in a diverse electorate that included more active Arab- and Asian-Americans than the last time Gounardes ran (and lost) in 2014.
“People who live in fear of crossing the street, it doesn’t matter what the color of your skin is or if you’re an immigrant of if you’ve lived in our neighborhood for 50 years — everyone is at risk when they walk down unsafe streets,” he said. “And this issue resonates across all the residents. I talked about this issue from day one until Election Day, when I convinced someone to change his vote for me because of speed cameras. Speeding was one of the things that I consistently heard every day.”
The Board of Elections, which is under fire for its poor handling of the rainy-day election, did not say when its official count would be completed, as absentee ballots are still coming in. But Gounardes said he’s confident that Golden will not get enough paper ballots to change the result.
Activists were confident in their winner — and his central issue, too.
“You’re setting a standard [for candidates] all over the country,” said Mary Beth Kelly of Families for Safe Streets. “Urban life should be free of fear.
Andrew Gounardes Takes Victory Lap … At Vision Zero Safety Conference!