March 15, 2023 By Julia Moro
Queens elected officials are disturbed by the sexual assault accusations against freshman Assembly member Juan Ardila. Many are calling on him to resign after holding the District 37 seat for barely three months.
News broke Monday, March 13, that the assemblyman allegedly sexually assaulted two women at a Manhattan party held by Fordham University students nearly eight years ago. One victim said he inappropriately touched her and tried to lead her into the bathroom before a friend intervened, while another said he groped her. Both requested to be anonymous.
Ardila, who issued an apology following the allegations, was elected last year to represent the 37th assembly district covering western Queens, taking over a seat that was left vacant by Cathy Nolan.
During his run for office, Ardila had garnered the support of high-profile democrats and progressives— with U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Working Families Party among the list of endorsements.
As of yesterday, AOC told Queens Post that she believes Ardila should step down and will withdraw the Courage to Change PAC endorsement.
On Tuesday, Queens Borough Donovan Richards told the Queens Post that the allegations against Ardila are “deeply troubling and require a full and thorough investigation.”
Councilman Robert Holden, a former opponent of Ardila’s when campaigning for City Council in 2021, was the first elected official in Queens to demand Ardila’s resignation.
More representatives have chimed in on the issue. Today, Senator Kristen Gonzalez; Senator Julia Salazar; Senator Mike Gianaris; Assembly member Zohran Mamdani; City Council member Julie Won; State Committee member and District Leader Émilia Decaudin, and State Committee member & District Leader Nicholas Berkowitz issued a joint statement calling on Ardila to resign.
“The accounts from the women who experienced sexual assault are harrowing and reveal indefensible actions — to which he has admitted. While we believe in restorative justice, this process cannot occur while holding a position of power. As Juan Ardila’s fellow elected officials in government, we share a collective duty to hold ourselves and each other accountable,” they said in their statement.
City Comptroller Brad Lander released a statement Wednesday, saying, “there can be no tolerance for sexual assault.”
Ardila worked as a staffer under Lander when he was a City Councilman in Brooklyn.
“After learning this week about reports of sexual assault in 2015, I believe that Juan Ardila should heed the call of the women he harmed to resign from the New York state Assembly,” Lander said. “As someone who has seen Juan grow over the past eight years, I hope to see him take accountability now.”
Meanwhile, State Senator Jessica Ramos said she was “extremely disappointed” upon hearing of the accusations levied against Ardila, but has not called for his resignation. Instead, she said that Ardila “needs to work this out with his constituents.”
Assemblymember Steven Raga said his actions are indefensible and raise severe concerns over his ability to govern and lead his district.
“All victims of sexual assault deserve to have their stories told and believed,” Raga said. “While an apology is important if Ardila chooses to stay in office, he is going to have to do much work to rebuild any type of relationship with his constituents and partners.”
Council members Tiffany Cabán and Jen Gutiérrez released a joint statement, sharing they believe “he should resign and take a step back from public service.”
“Those who have transgressed [need to] take accountability, tell the truth, and do the hard work of atonement and repair,” the statement read. “Juan Ardila has not lived up to that standard. His immediate response was to deny the facts. Following this, he released a statement chalking his misconduct up to youthful indiscretion. The fact that it wasn’t until his third statement that he began to take responsibility makes it hard to believe that he is sincerely ready for and committed to that hard work.”
Haile Kim, a Sunnyside resident running to unseat Councilwoman Julie Won, said she is troubled by Ardila’s response to the accusations.
“Whatever his version of these events end up being, it is clear that he cannot effectively represent his constituents,” Kim said. “He should resign immediately.”
Ardila released a statement Tuesday night, saying he takes full responsibility for his actions and is committed to accountability.
“I want the public to know that I am deeply apologetic for my past behavior and acknowledge my actions have caused great harm,” Ardila said. “I recognize this harm was not only to the individuals who came forward, but extends beyond these victims, and impacts survivors everywhere.”
Former District 37 Assembly member Cathly Nolan called on those who “honored her with their votes many times” to find a new representative.
“My endorsement in June went to an outstanding woman for the 37th Assembly district because, as this episode illustrates, Albany needs to hear the voices and experiences of women,” Nolan said. “Mr. Ardila never showed me that he would be an effective advocate for our district and its people. This has proved to be the case.”
Nolan had endorsed attorney Johanna Carmona to succeed her in the race to represent District 37 in Albany.
Ardila, in a statement released Tuesday night, did not indicate that he would be stepping down; instead, he is hoping for a second chance.
“I made mistakes, and I am not perfect. However, I am interested in and eager for a restorative justice-centered process so that we can heal and repair the damage done.”