N.Y. Lawmaker Pressured to Resign After Sexual Misconduct Allegations
Assemblyman Juan Ardila did not deny the allegations. He said that his actions were inexcusable and that he would not “debate the facts.”
ALBANY, N.Y. — A New York state lawmaker is facing pressure to resign following accusations from two women of sexual misconduct at a college party in 2015.
Assemblyman Juan Ardila, a first-term Democrat from Queens, was accused of inappropriately touching one woman on a couch while she was heavily intoxicated and of exposing himself to another woman shortly after kissing her in a bathroom on the same night.
The women’s claims were first detailed in an article published on Monday by The Queens Chronicle, prompting Mr. Ardila to issue a series of apologies as a growing chorus of elected officials, including Gov. Kathy Hochul, demanded that he step down.
The woman who accused Mr. Ardila of touching her on the couch without her consent detailed her allegations in an interview with The Times on Thursday. She said the incident occurred in October 2015 during a party at a Manhattan apartment attended by students of Fordham University, from which Mr. Ardila had graduated earlier that year.
The woman, who was a 21-year-old Fordham senior at the time, said she shared her account publicly this week after moving to Long Island City in Queens last month and learning that Mr. Ardila represented a neighboring district.
“I don’t know what my place should be aside from telling my story and letting people know who’s representing them,” said the woman, who is now 28 and requested anonymity out of fear of retaliation. “I think they deserve better.”
Mr. Ardila, a political newcomer who was elected to the State Assembly in November with support from his party’s left wing, did not deny the allegations in a statement on Tuesday. He said that his actions were inexcusable and that he would not “debate the facts.”
“I want the public to know that I am deeply apologetic for my past behavior and acknowledge that my actions have caused great harm,” he said. “I recognize that this harm was not only to the individuals who came forward, but extends beyond these victims, and impacts survivors everywhere.”
Mr. Ardila, who represents parts of Long Island City, Sunnyside and Maspeth, urged his constituents to give him a second chance, saying he was committed to a “restorative justice-centered process.”
His office did not reply to multiple requests for comment.
Mr. Ardila’s apology, however, did little to quell calls for his resignation from a growing group of Democrats.
On Thursday, Ms. Hochul, who replaced former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in 2021 after he resigned over sexual harassment allegations, said “she supported survivors in their calls for accountability.”
“Yes, he should resign,” she told reporters in Upper Manhattan following an unrelated public appearance.
Earlier in the week, a group of Queens Democrats had also called on him to resign, including Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Grace Meng, as well as Donovan Richards, the borough president.
In a joint statement, seven state and local officials in Queens, including Michael Gianaris, the deputy majority leader in the State Senate, said on Wednesday that the women’s accounts were “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,” the statement said.
The powerful speaker of the Assembly, Carl Heastie, a Democrat from the Bronx, stopped short of calling on Mr. Ardila to resign.
On Wednesday, Mr. Heastie described Mr. Ardila’s behavior as “unacceptable” but said that resignation was “a decision that Juan and his constituents have to think about.” He added that the lower chamber’s ethics committee was limited in its ability to investigate the allegations because they did not take place while Mr. Ardila was a member of the Assembly.
Mr. Ardila, who declined to take questions from reporters in the State Capitol on Wednesday, has not given any indication that he intends to resign.
The woman whom Mr. Ardila touched on the couch said on Thursday that she did not previously know Mr. Ardila and could not recall how they had met that night. She said she had drunk heavily and that she had become intoxicated “past the point of consent” when he began touching her.
“I remember being on the couch with him and him being extremely close to me, and I was kind of confused about why,” she said. “It was almost like a person who’s in a coma and they’re aware of what’s going on, but they can’t communicate. That’s how I started to feel.”
Mr. Ardila, she said, later attempted to lead her down a hallway before her best friend saw what was happening and intervened.
The second woman to accuse Mr. Ardila shared her account in a written statement provided to The New York Times by the first woman. She has not made her identity known. She wrote that toward the end of the party, Mr. Ardila pulled her into a bathroom and began kissing her. When she pulled away, she noticed Mr. Ardila had exposed himself and was touching himself, she wrote.
Neither woman reported the incidents to the police. The first woman said she is not considering pressing charges.
Years later, in January 2018, at the height of the MeToo movement, Mr. Ardila messaged the first woman on Instagram to apologize for his behavior, telling her he had been “a jerk,” according a screenshot of the message reviewed by The Times.
The woman said she never heard from Mr. Ardila again until she learned last month that he had pursued a career in politics.
Mr. Ardila also came under scrutiny during a failed bid for the City Council in 2021, when he was forced to apologize over a series of offensive Facebook posts from his teenage years that contained racist, misogynistic and homophobic slurs.
Before running for the Legislature, Mr. Ardila worked for the Legal Aid Society, as a consultant to the city’s education department, and as a staffer for Brad Lander, the city comptroller, when he served in the City Council.
On Wednesday, Mr. Lander joined other Democrats calling on Mr. Ardila to step down, saying that, “As someone who has seen Juan grow over the past eight years, I hope to see him take accountability now.”
Other allies have also begun pulling their support: Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said that she would rescind a previous endorsement of Mr. Ardila by her political action committee, Courage to Change.
The Working Families Party, a left-leaning third party that had backed Mr. Ardila, also called for his resignation, urging Mr. Ardila to “engage in deep reflection in this moment, and recommit to the lifelong work of ending sexual violence.”
“The speed at which this story has moved does not allow us to adequately meet the needs of survivors, the person who perpetrated harm, and the community at large,” the party said in a statement.