By Iryna Shkurhan | [email protected]
Western Queens pols and Community Board 2 members pressed Assemblyman Juan Ardila to acknowledge sweeping calls to resign at their recent Zoom meeting on May 4.
Allegations that the Assemblyman sexually assaulted two women in 2015 first emerged in March. Initially, he issued a “no comment” response but later asserted a “commitment to accountability” and chose to hire a personal lawyer to conduct an investigation into the allegations. Since then, a slew of city and state officials have called for his resignation. Most notably, Governor Kathy Hochul and the Working Families Party that endorsed him.
“You cannot ignore the call for resignation from the victim and then not saying anything, you have to explain why you’re refusing to resign,” said Council Member Julie Won during the meeting.
The councilwoman accused Ardila of intimidating his accusers through his personal lawyer. She also mentioned that he reached out to one of the victim’s father’s to inform him of the allegations his daughter brought forward.
“It’s not okay for you to expose their names and intimidate them and call their father telling him that their daughter was sexually assaulted by you or are alleging that you did that,” said Won. “That is not okay.”
Won, who represents Sunnyside in Ardila’s district, also said that she has received “angry text messages” from constituents who are “incredibly upset” that he has not resigned, nor provided an explanation why.
“This is certainly an issue that should interest our entire district,” said Council Member Kristen Gonzalez, who was one of the critical voices of city to state officials who called on Ardila to resign.
After Ardila initially spoke at the meeting to discuss his involvement in the state budget that recently passed in Albany, Gonzalez stepped in to discredit his role in budget negotiations. Ardila was the only freshman Democrat to not receive an assigned budget committee, per the elected officials at the meeting.
“For example, All-Electric Buildings was carried by Assemblymember Gallagher who has also called for him to resign. He mentioned the Build Public Renewables Act, something that was worked on by the Democratic Socialists of America. Again, all DSA electeds overlapping have called on him to resign. He mentioned Good Cause Eviction, a bill carried by Senator Salazar, another woman and survivor who has called on him to resign,” reinforced Gonzalez.
Despite Ardila’s continuous dismissal of the allegations as a “personal matter” during the call, CB2 Chairperson, Danielle Brecker, and other members of the board reinforced that they see it as a “community issue” instead.
“To hear you say it’s personal, doesn’t take into account that this is societal. And that none of us deserve to experience that,” said CB2 member Sheila Lewandowski who shared that she is a survivor of multiple incidents of sexual assault, some of which fit the description of Ardila’s victims.
Ardila stated several times that he plans to address the issue, but did not offer a specific timeline during the meeting.
“It’s disappointing because there’s things that are being said that haven’t come from me, haven’t come from my circle. And like I said, I will address it. You are going to hear from me,” Ardila replied during the meeting. “But I do not believe that our community board is the space to do so on personal issues like that.”
Ardila’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
“What you’re doing is harming our community. And that is not a private matter. You have not made it a personal matter, because now it is affecting my constituents and your constituents and Kristen Gonzalez’s constituents and our neighbors,” reinforced Won.