Politics, Art & Action Mix Bay Ridge’s Solidarity Space

A former Democratic candidate for state senate in Southern Brooklyn refuses to let his primary loss earlier this year stop the progressive political movement from ending.

Former political candidate and journalist Ross Barkan last night officially held the grand opening to Solidarity Space, 307 82nd Street in Bay Ridge. The new community center was Barkan’s former campaign headquarters and will now serve as a permanent space for community civic engagement.

Former Democratic candidate for State Senate and journalist Ross Barkan, left, explains how the space will work. Photo by Kelly Mena.

“Though we didn’t win in September, lots of people got involved and we wanted to keep that work going. I think all of us were hungering for a place like this, where we could go and be a part of community events, where we could see great art and learn new skills. Where we could really come together,” said Barkan.

Founded by community activists and volunteers, both from the campaign and beyond, Solidarity Space seeks to be a true community hub. The space is grounded in the recent blue wave hitting the district resulting in State Sen.-elect Andrew Gounardes’ (D-Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Marine Park, Gerritsen Beach, Gravesend, parts of Sheepshead Bay, Borough Park, Midwood) win over longtime incumbent State Sen. Marty Golden (R).

The spaces mantra: Politics+Art+Action–hopes to keep local residents engaged in civic activities while using art and media as a form of political response.

A library in the space will include books on women’ empowerment. Photo by Kelly Mena.

The space will also be home to the newly formed Solidarity Space Democrats, a new political club dedicated to progressive politics. Barkan is hoping the space serves as a safe and open forum for the area’s growing democratic sentiment.

“We wanted to do something after the campaign, we wanted to keep that energy up especially after the district turned “blue” which is exciting. We wanted to keep that moment up. The space is really about building community. It’s a safe space to be and it’s going to be a lot about community education and civic engagement,” said Genna Goldsobel, Organizer of Solidarity Space.

The community space will also be home to artististic expression led by artist-in-residence Anna Lise Jensen, including readings, lectures and workshops. Currently, the space features work from local artist John W. Tomac, a Bay Ridge artist who designed one of the New Yorker’s most iconic covers, “Liberty’s Flameout.”

The space though not formally open, will look to be home to local organizing groups. Rider’s Alliance, which is a founding Solidarity Space partner, is already using the space to launch actions for public transportation.

Additionally, on Election Day, New York Immigrant Action Coalition worked out of the space as they helped get out the vote for the successful campaigns of U.S. Rep.-elect Max Rose (D-Southern Brooklyn, Staten Island)   and Gounardes. Sarah Peltz, a Bay Ridge resident who runs a well-regarded transportation podcast, recently interviewed former City Councilman Sal Albanese at Solidarity Space.

“We want everyone to come just locally and enjoy the space. It’s going to be a great mutual collaborative space,” said Valerie Berrios, Solidarity Space planning community member.

For more information on Solidarity Space, click here.

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