After weeks of largely avoiding the spotlight in the wake of sexual assault and misconduct allegations, Queens Assembly Member Juan Ardila found himself under fire Thursday night while attending a virtual community board meeting. Board members in attendance, as well as state Sen. Kristen Gonzalez and New York City Council Member Julie Won, demanded accountability from Ardila regarding the allegations from two women and called into question his ability to effectively represent his district. Amid the dwindling confidence in his governing capabilities, Democrats in the community have begun discussing a primary challenge against Ardila next year if he doesn’t resign.
Ardila has made few public appearances since the sexual misconduct allegations arose in March and a slew of elected officials from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Gov. Kathy Hochul called for his resignation. But Ardila appeared at a Queens Community Board 2 meeting on Thursday night to provide information about the newly-passed state budget, and numerous board members and other elected officials took the opportunity to demand answers from him about his refusal to step down. “I do have to say the chat was robust,” Board Chair Danielle Brecker told City & State, noting that only board members and elected officials could speak during the Zoom meeting. “There were a lot of comments about people frustrated with the situation, so I don’t think it’s a vocal few.” Brecker said about 100 people attended the virtual meeting.
The grilling of Ardila lasted roughly an hour, before the board launched into a separate two-hour debate over whether they had the authority to formally call for his resignation. “It is absolutely getting in the way of his ability to represent,” Gonzalez told City & State, adding that she and Ardila have no professional relationship at this point despite representing overlapping districts in western Queens. Gonzalez called out Ardila for taking credit for budget victories pushed for by progressives. “When we were strategizing about getting (the) All Electric (Buildings Act) across the finish line… he was not there,” Gonzalez said, adding that he’s “selfishly… not giving us an opportunity to work with someone to represent this community.” Ardila did not return a request for comment about the board meeting.
Queens progressives’ patience with Ardila has run thin. Brecker said that community members and Democratic leaders have already begun serious conversations about unseating Ardila if he doesn’t resign before next year’s Democratic primary. “There will definitely be a primary,” said Brecker, who is also a member of the state Democratic Committee. Progressive leaders in western Queens to hoping to coalesce around a single candidate early in order to avoid a crowded primary like the 2021 race for Council District 26, which attracted 14 candidates. “I am 100% sure he will be challenged, we just have to make sure we do it in a way that gets someone who is good for the district,” Brecker said.
Ardila has not said publicly whether he will seek reelection, but at least one prominent community member has filed to run in his Assembly District 37. Progressive Queens District Leader Émilia Decaudin, an active member of the Queens chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, filed with the state Board of Elections on April 11, weeks after the sexual assault allegations against Ardila first came out. Decaudin expressed interest in running for the seat last year when former Assembly Member Catherine Nolan announced her retirement, but ultimately decided not to enter the election. “Last night's meeting has made his inability to represent our community even more clear,” Decaudin told City & State. “I am taking steps to prepare for however Ardila decides to proceed.”
In 2022, Ardila defeated three other candidates in the Democratic primary, including second-place finisher Brent O’Leary and the Nolan-backed Johanna Carmona. O'Leary told City & State that he is not going to run for the seat again. Carmona could not immediately be reached for comment.