Maspeth native and community activist Juan Ardila launched his campaign Thursday to replace Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, a week after she decided to not seek re-election following a 38-year career representing western Queens in Albany.
The progressive Democrat mounted an unsuccessful challenge against Councilman Robert Holden last year, and he became the first to announce his run for the 37th Assembly District since Nolan announced her impending retirement.
The redrawn 37th District includes much of western Ridgewood, the western corner of Maspeth, and parts of Woodside, Sunnyside and the Hunters Point section of Long Island City.
“I’m running for state Assembly because Queens residents deserve affordable housing, improved public transit and a plan to combat climate change,” Ardila said. “Growing up in an immigrant family, I have experienced how important it is to have representation that understands how government can impact our lives. In Albany, I will be a champion for our seniors, our workers and our tenants. I am excited to fight for a better future for all New Yorkers.”
Ardila offers an alternative to the moderate Nolan, who was a staunch supporter of the Amazon proposal that would have built an HQ2 campus in Long Island City, a project that the e-commerce giant scuttled after opposition from progressive western Queens elected officials.
“I thank Cathy Nolan for her decades of service to our community. I believe it is time for a change,” Ardila told QNS Thursday. “I am running to make sure that the community’s needs are at the center of all decision-making. I opposed the Amazon development plan because there was no legitimate reason for taxpayers to subsidize a trillion-dollar corporation. The reality is that Amazon is still hiring and expanding in NYC, even without tax breaks, because we have the greatest workers here.”
Ardila is a lifelong Queens resident and first-generation American, the son of a Colombian father and Honduran-Cuban mother. He said he understands the hardships of working-class families and he’s running to improve the public schools, the criminal justice system and housing policies.
The state Assembly candidate attended St. Adalbert Catholic Academy in Elmhurst for elementary and middle school, then Archbishop Molloy High School in Briarwood and later earned his B.A. in political science from Fordham University. He then got his master’s degree in public administration with a concentration in public policy analysis from New York University.
Ardila grew up in a working-class, immigrant household. When he was 17, he said, he nearly lost his mother to deportation after she was denied her residency. Just a few years later, some of his family members in Honduras faced persecution from gang violence.
During his campaign against Holden, Ardila said he regretted racist and anti-gay language he used in social media posts as a teenager, and following his apology he went on to gain the endorsements of several high-profile city and state leaders like state Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz.
Both Ramos and Cruz are now endorsing Ardila’s Assembly bid.
“I am proud to endorse Juan Ardila for New York State Assembly. I know he will be a strong voice for a fair and just post-pandemic recovery,” Ramos said. “Juan draws on his experience in providing legal representation for all New Yorkers and will bring his unwavering dedication to listen to working families and to organize his community around key priorities such as housing infrastructure, increased access to public transportation and a more inclusive public education system.”
Cruz was born in Colombia and came to Queens at the age of 9 growing up as a DREAMer. She currently serves as Chair of the Assembly Task Force for New Americans.
“I proudly endorse Juan Ardila because he truly embodies the dedication to public service and commitment to his community. He understands the immigrant experience and will serve as a leader for immigrant issues in the New York State Assembly,” Cruz said. “A true fighter and advocate, I am excited to support Juan and look forward to working with him to deliver the changes New Yorkers need.”
Ardila currently works at the Legal Aid Society.
“Juan Ardila is a fighter for his community who has stood with immigrant, Latinx, Black and working-class members of his community in the fight for respect and dignity,” said Theo Oshiro, co-executive director of Make the Road Action. “We were proud to support him before, and we’re proud to support him again as he seeks to become the Assembly member our communities need.”