May 5, 2023 By Christian Murray
If he thought it was business as usual—he was very much mistaken.
Controversial Assemblymember Juan Ardila, who was accused earlier this year by two women of sexual assault, addressed Community Board 2 via Zoom Thursday night.
He initially began by discussing his “victories” in Albany and the work he has been doing for his western Queens district—but was later slammed by the board for not addressing the sexual assaults, which took place at a Manhattan party in October 2015.
The accusers came forward in March and Ardila has not said a word about the incidents other than two statements via Twitter soon after. In one of the statements, he acknowledged responsibility and called for restorative justice.
“So, everybody, Happy Thursday and happy the start of summer,” Ardila said when he got on the call. He then talked about the state budget that passed in Albany this week and some of the victories—such as the passage of the Electric Buildings Act, which will ban gas stoves in new buildings, and the Build Public Renewables Act, which aims to reduce fossil fuel dependency.
“There were some gains…especially when it comes to climate issues,” Ardila said. “So, we’re really excited about those.”
Ardila then talked about the additional MTA funding that will bring five free bus routes. “I’m very excited about it, we could use more interconnectivity within New York City.”
He then expressed his disappointment that the Good Cause Eviction bill, which would have provided greater tenant protections, was not passed.
But the board, as well as State Sen. Kristen Gonzalez and Councilmember Julie Won who attended the meeting, had little interest in Ardila’s “achievements” in Albany.
They wanted to know why he has not addressed the calls for him to resign.
Ardila told the board that he viewed the incidents to be “a personal matter” and said that the meeting was not the appropriate venue to discuss such issues. He said that he attended the board meeting Thursday to discuss his work for the district.
But State Sen. Kristen Gonzalez, a western Queens representative who has called for Ardila to step down, said that the allegations are affecting his ability to represent the district, since his colleagues in Albany are distancing themselves from him.
Gonzalez, who said she is a sexual assault survivor, noted that every elected official that represents a district that overlaps Ardila’s—whether on a federal, state or city level—has called for him to resign. The governor has too.
“You are not receiving the representation that you deserve,” Gonzalez told the board and the constituents of his district. She also said that Ardila was taking credit for budget wins that he had little to do with.
“You know there were some significant wins that the Assemblymember mentions,” Gonzalez said. “For example, the Electric Buildings Act. But that was carried by Assemblymember Gallagher, who has called for him to resign. He mentioned the Build Public Renewables Act, something that was worked on by the Democratic Socialists of America. All DSA elected in districts overlapping with him have called for him to resign.
“He mentioned Good Cause Eviction, a bill carried by Senator Julia Salazar, another woman and survivor who has called on him to resign,” Gonzalez said. She also said he also had nothing to do with the additional bus routes.
Gonzalez said Albany is about working with other elected officials and being able to organize.
Not only did she say he was an ineffective legislator, but she also said his words about restorative were not sincere.
“If we believe in restorative justice, why haven’t we seen any real response to this?” Gonzalez said. She said that the survivors have called for him to step down—and he should step down.
But some of the toughest language came from Councilmember Julie Won, who represents western Queens.
“You have to explain why you’re refusing to resign,” Won asked Ardila at the meeting. “You cannot ignore the victims who are calling for you to step down–and say nothing.”
She said that one of the victims is a constituent and that it was not a personal matter—but a community issue—given that it is impacting people in her district. Additionally, she accused him of harassing the victims.
“I want to make it clear that harassment of the victims and intimidating them through your lawyer, Stuart Slotnick, is not ok,” she said. “What you are doing to these women is not ok. For you to intimidate them, harass them and silence them via your lawyer… is not ok.”
“They’re hiding now because of what you’re doing,” Won said.
Slotnick is a defense attorney and a partner at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney who sources say has been hired by Ardila to conduct an independent investigation. The purpose of the review is unclear, given that Ardila has not disputed the sexual assault claims. However, Ardila is currently subject to an investigation by the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
Slotnick could not be reached for comment.
Ardila did not address any of Won’s questions, instead restating that it is a personal issue that will be in addressed in due course.
“I’m not blind to it,” Ardila said. “I’m not ignoring any of you. I am hearing it. Believe me. You will hear from me.”
Ardila said that he has not commented on the sexual assault case since March 14—whether it be to his fellow elected officials, the media or community.
Community Board member Rosamond Gianutsos asked Ardila when he would report back to the community.
“I’d like to just get an answer or commitment as to when you’re going to have this response?”
Ardila failed to provide a timeframe.
Gonzalez said after the meeting that she was disappointed with Ardila’s responses.
“What he is trying to do is make it look like it is business as usual. It is very clear that he wants to stay…and it’s insulting to the community and even more insulting to the victims.”
Won said Friday that Ardila’s claim of seeking restorative justice rings hollow.
“What he’s done is hire a lawyer who is harassing these women. That is the complete opposite.”