Out of the mouths of babes! Gounardes to hold town hall for kids

Paula Katinas

January 08, 2020

Originally published in Brooklyn Reporter on January 08, 2020.

State Sen. Andrew Gounardes (right) said he is looking forward to the Kids’ Town Hall he is holding on Jan. 12. He is pictured in a 2019 photo with Assemblymember Robert Carroll. Photo taken by Despina Costalas of Senator Gounardes's Office

BENSONHURST — The grown-ups have had their chance. Now it’s the kids’ turn.

State Sen. Andrew Gounardes is looking for ideas and input from his youngest constituents and is hosting a Kids’ Town Hall on Sunday, Jan. 12, at Edward B. Shallow Intermediate School, 6500 16th Ave., from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The session is designed to give youngsters from elementary school to high school the chance to ask questions of Gounardes on the issues they care about and to offer their ideas on how to make their communities and the world better places to live, according to the lawmaker’s office.

The issues that are expected to come up include climate change, vaping and bullying.

Gounardes, a Democrat representing several neighborhoods in Southwest Brooklyn, said he’s looking forward to the town hall. “Listening to young people inspires me and helps me focus on what’s important,” he told the Home Reporter in a text message.

Besides, said Gounardes, people who are too young to vote still deserve to be heard.

“With so many policy issues that directly affect young peoples’ lives under discussion at all levels of government, from climate change to street safety to vaping, kids and teens must have the opportunity to express their views and be heard. It’s never too early to begin with civic engagement, which is a vital part of a well-rounded education. The kids of today will inherit the future we provide and they deserve a seat at the table,” he said.

The town hall isn’t the first time Gounardes has reached out to young people for ideas on how to solve a problem.

Last year, he organized a Youth Pedestrian Safety Task Force and asked high school students to take a look at ways to decrease pedestrian injuries on local streets. The task force is led by three local students, Preston Ferraiuolo of Regis High School and Leila Mullarkey and Ava Elfront of Bay Ridge Prep.

The ideas they presented to Gounardes included launching an education campaign on social media to urge young people to pay attention to their surroundings while crossing the street, constructing pedestrian islands in the middle of wide roadways to give people a shorter distance to cross the street and installing additional speed cameras on city streets.

The task force is an outgrowth of the Southern Brooklyn Pedestrian Safety Task Force, which Gounardes had formed earlier in the year in response to a series of car crashes in his district.

While the Jan. 12 town hall is aimed at youngsters, their parents are also invited, according to Gounardes’ office.

To RSVP, email: gounardesrsvp@gmail.com