Post-Primary, Democrat Forms New Political Club

October 5, 2018 Paula Katinas
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Ross Barkan Also Establishes Community Event Space

A Bay Ridge political candidate’s campaign headquarters is getting a second life. Two lives, actually.

Ross Barkan, a political journalist who lost the Democratic primary in the 22nd State Senate District to lawyer Andrew Gounardes last month, isn’t sitting back and licking his wounds.

He is busy converting his campaign headquarters at 307 82nd St. into a repurposed spot that will house both a political club and a community space for poetry readings, art exhibitions, screenings, teach-ins and other arts-related events.

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The campaign office has been renamed Solidarity Space.

The goal of the political club will be to help get progressives elected to public office and to speak out on issues of the day, according to Barkan.

But he is just as excited about the arts component of the new project.

“I want it to be a place where people can express themselves. I hope it’s not just a political clubhouse,” Barkan told this newspaper.

The idea for Solidarity Space came to Barkan and his campaign staffers shortly after he lost to Gounardes on Sept. 13. Gounardes will now face incumbent Republican state Sen. Marty Golden in the Nov. 6 election. Barkan has since endorsed Gounardes.

“I’m proud of the campaign. We really recruited new people. We built a political structure from scratch,” Barkan said.

“After the campaign ended, we were in the headquarters, which we had really come to love, preparing to clean up and leave, and we wondered if we could find a way to keep the energy going,” Barkan said. “One of us said, ‘Why don’t we stay?’ People enjoyed interacting there.”

The campaign headquarters was filled with positive energy, according to Barkan, who said volunteers brought an optimistic attitude to everything they did.

The campaign workers found fun ways to express their political views. The campaign hosted an Abolish ICE Cream Social one afternoon during the summer in protest against the Trump administration’s deportation of undocumented immigrants as carried out by agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Barkan said he hopes the community space can flourish. “Bay Ridge does not have a lot of community spaces. We hope to partner with organizations that exist,” Barkan said, adding that his goal is to give people a place to go.

He doesn’t plan to take a leadership role in either the political organization or the community space, however.

Still, he has ideas. And he likes the idea of politics and art sharing the same space. “The arts should not be divorced from politics,” he said.

If people come to Solidarity Space to enjoy the arts and become interested in politics as a result, that’s fine with him.

“Southern Brooklyn, compared to the rest of the borough, has not always been politically engaged. Politics engages the same group of people. We need to expand that pool,” Barkan said.

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