Queens DA visits Sunnyside to discuss the Trespass Affidavit Program

Sunnyside Shines organizes luncheon for Sunnyside business owners

By Yasin Akdag 

Last month, the Queens DA, local Police Department, and local business owners convened at Tangra in Sunnyside for a business luncheon event.

Organized by the Sunnyside Shines, the event featured presentations by the District Attorney of Queens County, the New York City Police Department, and AT&T.

“We’re delighted to bring together everyone to hear about the Trespass Affidavit Program and appreciate the Queens District Attorney’s office and the 108thPrecinct making presentations. We are grateful to AT&T for sponsoring this luncheon and to Tangra for hosting it”, said Dirk McCall de Palomá, Executive Director of Sunnyside Shines.

“Sunnyside Shines wants to create a more safe and welcoming community, and the lunch-in event helps in contributing to a more dynamic environment by bringing business owners together, empathizing and sharing similar values, thus enhancing the experience of the Sunnyside neighborhood,” McCall de Paloma added.

The event opened with remarks from Executive Assistant District Attorney, Theresa Shanahan, who talked about what values the Merchants Business Program brings to the Borough of Queens. 

“We’ve received a great deal of positive feedback from the merchants on the pilot programs”, she said. 

NYPD also led the event by explaining further on the purpose of the program, designed to discourage illegal and disruptive activity inside of local shops and stores.  

Mohamadyah Patwekar Executive Captain spoke on the recent crime stats in Queens and explained the crime rate has decreased by 60%. He specifically emphasized the Merchant Business Improvement Program that serves the purpose of helping fellow Queens residents who’ve been a victim or witnessed a crime. He elaborated on how the program works and ideally, when a resident experiences a crime the person should dial 911 and NYPD officers will respond and serve the individual crime offender with a trespass notice. The trespass notice serves as a conduct that provides a warning for the concerning criminal. A criminal served with a trespass notice will be held accountable for committing a second crime at that location, whilst copies of the served notices are kept at each precinct and provided to the merchant. 

AT&T also presented at the event, and their team reinforced their goal of continuing to  invest in the Sunnyside neighborhood. The company is keen to sponsor and serve local business owners with coverage for business phones and hotspots. Members of AT&T will receive benefits like member’s employee discounts, also covering for emergency purposes with FirstNet availability. 

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and connectivity has become the backbone of so many small businesses. We are proud to sponsor the Sunnyside business luncheon, and to work closely with small businesses to find the right connectivity solutions that can help them grow and thrive in today’s connected economy,” said Timothy Tapia, Director of External Affairs at AT&T. 

The company has invested nearly $2.7 billion in its network infrastructure in New York from 2019-2023 to connect more people to greater possibility 

Local business owners in the Sunnyside neighborhood also participated in the event. 

Among the participants were Erika Gilliard from the Sunnyside Community Services, Leon Dubov from QBK Sports, Daniel Yildirim from Chakra Café, Nelson Michell from Supreme Team Boxing, and Rapid Shrestha from Newa Chhe restaurant. 

The business owners actively participated in the meeting discussions, voicing their concerns and posing questions that sparked ideas for addressing community issues

The NYPD addressed people’s inquiries and discussed the implemented program, emphasizing their rights when witnessing a crime. 




14 Injured, Hundreds Displaced After Sunnyside Apartment Fire

By Celia Bernhardt | cbernhardt@queensledger.com 

A five-alarm fire broke out at the top floor of 43-09 47th Avenue in Sunnyside on Wednesday. Nearly 200 firefighters battled the blaze for hours throughout the early afternoon. 

Crowds gathered in the street, watching plumes of smoke rise from the sixth floor as the FDNY, Red Cross, EMS and other agencies responded to the scene. Residents from the building wore Red Cross shock blankets, some carrying their pets in travel cages. 

The six-floor, 108-unit residential building sustained heavy damage from the blaze. At least 14 individuals were injured, with none in life-threatening condition. Several victims, along with a firefighter in serious but stable condition, were transported to nearby hospitals.

Firefighters battled the blaze for hours. Credit for all photographs: Celia Bernhardt

Approximately 450 residents could be displaced from the fire and water damage, FDNY Department Chief and Incident Commander Tom Currao said at a press conference.

“I was asleep, and my roommate comes in frantic and yells my name,” Brittany Maldonado, a 24-year-old resident of the building’s fifth floor, said. “We noticed that our apartment complex is filled with smoke, and we got super nervous. We thought that maybe it was something electrical. We couldn’t see where the smoke was coming from.” 

Maldonado said she and her neighbors went up to the sixth floor.

“You could see major smoke coming out of two or three of the apartments, but really one of the doors was major smog, like black smoke,” she said. “I don’t know if the apartment was vacant or if just nobody was home, but a bunch of people were knocking. The super was up there knocking on the door, and nobody would open the door.”

Diego Garzon, the building’s superintendent, said a tenant called him on the phone between 11 a.m. and noon to inform him about the smoke. 

“I went right away to the sixth floor and saw smoke coming out of it,” he said. 

Currao said at the press conference that the FDNY received notification around noon of a four-alarm fire at the top floor of the building. 

“We were met with a heavy fire condition; it quickly escalated through the alarms,” Currao said. “We had to call a fifth alarm as well as additional units.” 

The department used six tower ladders and six hand lines at the height of the blaze. 

“On our floor alone there’s two elderly women who are in wheelchairs, so we were trying to evacuate them, helping them down and stuff,’ Maldonado said. “But nobody really knew what was going on until we left the building. And that’s when we saw the fire was way bigger than I think anybody expected.”

Damage is extensive throughout the building.

Maldonado said that the fire alarms she heard were quieter than she would have expected. 

“I just heard a little fire alarm, but I feel like I’ve heard louder fire alarms in school,” she said. “Like, I remember being in college and those fire alarms were way louder than the ones going on in the building.”

“I was just really in a panic, I wasn’t really thinking, I was so scared, and I didn’t really know what was going on,” Maldonado continued. “I didn’t know if it was coming from my apartment building, from the people across the way, if it was something electrical, if it was a gas fire—there were a lot of things being said, like ‘it was a fire on the roof,’ ‘it was in somebody’s apartment’—it was just a little bit of chaos.”

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

The Red Cross is offering assistance to building residents at the nearby Children’s Lab School, where they have set up a reception center. 

“I’ve been here for more than 30 years in the building. Over the 30 years, we never had this happen,” Garzon said. 

Maldonado said that many residents have called the Sunnyside building home for years. 

“They’re friendly. They’re like family members to one another,” she said. “This is really their home, and they’re like the backbone of the community. So I really hope that they’re able to help them out, give them a place to stay, things that they need.”

Hundreds of emergency personnel responded to the flames.



Organizers Push Ardila to Resign With Sit-In

The organizers held a sit-in at Ardila’s office on Skillman Ave. in Sunnyside. Photo Credit: @hailieforqueens on Twitter

By Iryna Shkurhanishkurhan@queensledger.com 

Three community members held a sit-in for over ten hours in Assemblyman Juan Ardila’s Sunnyside office last week, in an effort to push him to resign. 

The individuals, including Hailie Kim, former city council candidate in district 26, and Thomas Muccioli, a campaign staffer for Congresswoman Alexdra Ocasio-Cortez, confronted Ardila with a sign that read “Resign Now!” in the office’s lobby. Adam Friedman, a former staffer for Ardila, also showed up and documented the interaction. 

“It was not a comfortable situation for anybody involved, I can say that,” said Kim, a Sunnyside resident, in an interview with the Queens Ledger. “We were there for over 10 hours, or at least 10 hours.” 

The assemblyman, who represents Maspeth, Ridgewood, Sunnyside and Long Island City, was first accused of sexually assaulting two women earlier this March, and since then, countless electeds across the city and state have called for his resignation. Despite the large push for him to step down, Ardila has maintained his innocence and says he will carry on serving his constituents. 

But other elected officials whose districts overlap with his say that a working relationship with him, both in the district and in Albany, has been difficult due to his outcast status. Kim also pointed out that the lack of collaboration has hurt nonprofits and constituents in the district. 

There is an issue of leadership in our district where there was no coordinated effort to distribute discretionary funds to nonprofits in our community and so there were nonprofits who do great work and were zeroed out,” wrote Kim on Twitter alongside images from the sit-in. “This is unacceptable.”

At one point during the day, Ardila says he spoke to the protestors for two hours. Photo credit: @hailieforqueens on Twitter

In May, the New York Post reported that Jeffrion Aubry handled $250,000 worth of discretionary funds from the state budget to support community based organization within Ardila’s district.

Kim also pointed out that during her lengthy stay in the office, only a handful of constituents stopped by the office on Skillman Ave for services.

“This office is not fully functional,” said Kim, who previously worked in the nonprofit sector. “All day, there were not many constituents at all. And especially in a district like ours, it is highly unusual that there are not constantly people there.”

“Three individuals came to my office, and I spoke with them for over two hours, explaining that the allegations were false and that I have never been under any type of criminal investigation,” Ardila said in a statement to the Queens Ledger. “They repeatedly stated that they did not care if I was guilty or innocent, but that I needed to resign regardless.” 

Ardila denied that there were few constituents who came by the office on July 19 when the sit-in was held. 

“No, we were serving many constituents. We had a couple of walk-ins, and a lot of phone calls,” said Ardila in a follow up interview. “I even had to get involved because we were getting a few folks that needed some support. So we were pretty busy throughout the day.”

Ardila confirmed that he spoke to them for “over two hours” while they remained in his office and when it came time to close the office, “they refused to leave.” Kim also said that the conversation “felt like forever” and upon closing, “Juan and his staff stepped over us to leave and we were told if the landlord called the police on us, it would not be their fault.”

In a video of the interaction shared by Ardila, Kim and Muccioli are seen planted in front of the office’s main door as Ardila and his staffer stepped around them to leave for the day. The landlord remained in the office for an unknown period of time after their exit. 

Both Kim and Muccioli also shared their personal experiences with sexual assault with the Assemblyman during the confrontation in an effort to encourage him to take a restorative justice approach to the accusations against him. This approach aims to have offenders take responsibility, admit harm caused and take the opportunity to redeem themselves. 

“We weren’t trying to center the allegations, specifically, we were trying to center the fact that there were things that Assemblymember ought to be able to do that were not being done as a result of these allegations,” clarified Kim. 

Kim previously ran for city council twice in district 26, which includes Sunnyside, against current Councilwoman Julie Won. But she says that this act of protest should not be viewed in an electoral light.

“I want a district where if someone holds an action like this to hold an elected official accountable, I don’t want it to be seen as an electoral choice,” said Kim. “We have the right to express discontent and just want better for our district. And not necessarily just with the intention of running for office.”

BP Secures $17 Million For Queens Parks and Libraries 

Credit: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

By Iryna Shkurhan | ishkurhan@queensledger.com 

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. ended the city’s 2023 fiscal year with securing $10 million for parks across the borough, and $6.9 million for the Queens Public Library System. 

“It was a historic year for Queens, as we made unprecedented investments in ensuring our students receive the best education possible, our families have high-quality open space in their communities, our hospitals have state-of-the-art equipment and more,” said Richards in a press release on July 12.

The capital allocations will fund various renovations at 11 parks and playgrounds in Queens, including synthetic turf field renovations at Idlewild Park in Rosedale which received $1.5 million. Equity Park in Woodhaven, Frank O’Connor Playground in Elmhurst and St. Michael’s Playground in Woodside received $1 million each for playground updates, while Lawrence Virgilio Playground in Sunnyside was allocated $1.5 million for updates. The athletic field at Leonardo Ingravallo Playground also received $1 million. 

Twelve Queens Public Library branches will be upgraded with the near $7 million in funding secured by Richards. The Rosedale, Corona and Arverne branches will now be able to expand their facilities. The Richmond Hill, South Ozone Park, Baisley Park, and Hollis branches will undergo renovations. And the HVAC system at the Astoria branch will be upgraded. 

“Queens is the future of New York City, and I’m deeply proud of the work we are doing together as one borough to make that future as bright as possible,” said Richards, who said he will begin announcing allocations for next year in the coming weeks. “We’re just getting started, though, and I look forward to that work continuing in Fiscal Year 2024 and beyond.”

Since taking office in 2020, Richards has allocated more than $127 million in capital funding for schools, cultural organizations, healthcare facilities, CUNY colleges, community spaces and street safety improvements across the borough.

Neighborhood Favorite Alpha Donuts Closing After Almost Half a Century in Business

A small one-story shop sits on a street in Sunnyside, Queens, connected to two other small buildings. The shop has a bright yellow sign with the words "ALPHA DONUTS" written on it in red.

The Alpha Donuts storefront.

By Carmo Moniz | news@queensledger.com

As a child, Jennifer Dembek, a Sunnyside resident of 48 years, would sometimes be greeted with donuts from her grandmother after school. The donuts came from Alpha Donuts, a community staple where Dembek said she could always find a good meal, a friendly face and great service. Dembek is one of many Sunnyside residents with fond memories of the shop, which is closing its doors after 48 years of serving the neighborhood.

“I grew up with this place which was great, it’s a staple in the neighborhood that we’re losing,” Dembek said. “I’m sad to hear that it’s closing.”

The beloved donut spot, which has been gutted of its insides and now sits empty on 45-16 Queens Blvd., is closing due to financial difficulties caused by inflation and the COVID-19 pandemic, according to owner Patty Zorbas. Zorbas, who left the shop on Friday, has been running the business for the past 30 years.

“I gave so much of myself to this place,” Zorbas said. “It was a pleasure, all these years, it meant so much to me.”

Throughout its nearly 50 years in business, Alpha Donuts remained a family operation, according to Zorbas. She said that before she took over the shop, her sister-in-law had been in charge of the business, and before that her husband, who has since passed, was running it.

“This was my baby,” Zorbas said. “I have so many beautiful memories, it breaks my heart that I have to go.”

Yesnia Rumaldo, a friend of Zorbas’ who works in a nearby jewelry shop, said that she has gone to Alpha Donuts every morning for the past 24 years and is saddened to see it close. 

“This is the only place that you could come, where you find somebody friendly, always with a smile on their face, doesn’t matter what,” Rumaldo said. “They were always ready for everybody. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got money or if you don’t have money.”

Alpha Donuts is not the only small business in Sunnyside to have been hit hard by the pandemic. Three years ago, KMIA Salon, once located in the building to the right of Alpha Donuts, also closed due to financial struggles brought on by COVID-19. 

Food service and retail establishments were more affected by COVID-19 compared to other businesses, remaining below pre-pandemic levels even when many industries were beginning to bounce back, according to a report released by the New York City Comptroller last year. 

Anne Smyth, who has lived in Sunnyside for 35 years and was a frequent customer of the donut shop, said that she has noticed businesses closing more frequently in the neighborhood. 

“I’ve been here 35 years and it was the freshest coffee, food — everything,” Smyth said. “The whole neighborhood is so nice and Sunnyside has gone down so much. They’re taking away everything, rent is far too high, they’re bringing everything down. It’s not fair.”

Smyth added that Alpha Donuts was a common gathering spot for older Sunnyside residents, and said she is concerned about where they will go now that the shop is closed.

“They go in there, they have a cup of coffee, their cup of tea, they can sit there, they can have a toast or whatever they want,” Smyth said. “It’s gone, there’s nowhere else to go for them. It’s absolutely dreadful.”

Julie Won Secures Second Term 

Photo Credit: Emil Cohen/NYC Council Media Unit

By Iryna Shkurhanishkurhan@queensledger.com 

In District 26, incumbent City Councilmember Julie Won secured a second term in office following a Democratic primary election victory on June 27. 

“I am incredibly humbled by my neighbors’ overwhelming support for my re-election to the City Council!” said Won in a press statement. “From the beginning, my campaign has always centered the needs of the working class, immigrants, and families across the district.”

Won secured 61 percent of the vote, with 99 percent currently reporting, according to unofficial results from the city’s Board of Elections. Her second time challenger to the left, Hallie Kim, received 38 percent of votes in the district that represents much of western Queens, including Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City, Astoria and Maspeth.

While we did not get the result we wanted tonight, I am deeply grateful for the time everyone took to make their voices heard,” wrote Kim on Twitter the night of the election. “We made it clear that politicians who make promises on the campaign trail and break them in office will have to answer to their community and fight to maintain power.”

In her first term, Won spearheaded negotiations for Innovation QNS, a controversial $2 billion mixed-use development project that is expected to create 3,200 apartments – 45% of which will be designated affordable. She also worked to deliver free WiFi for NYCHA residents in her district and passed two language access bills to address disparities in access to public safety  information for immigrant communities. 

Won received significant criticism from her challenger for voting to pass last year’s city budget, which allocated more funding to the NYPD and while defunding schools by $370 million, according to Chalkbeat. Only six council members voted against the budget – a choice that Won said would have hurt her district. 

Despite criticism from her challenger and some community members, Won stood by her vote and insisted that issues from the budget can not be “cherry picked” and a vote against it would ultimately result in lost funding to her district. She would also point out that the budget is not set in stone, and has room for flexibility following its passage. 

In the two weekends leading up to election day, protests against Won and her “broken campaign pledges” were held in Sunnyside. Community members showed up to Lou Lodati Park on June 24 with signs that read “Julie Won Defunded My School” and “Julie Won Breaks Her Progressive Promises.”

“Our landslide victory demonstrated that a campaign rooted in positivity, real accomplishments, and genuine grassroots support will always triumph over one built on lies, personal attacks, and dirty tactics,” said the newly re-elected council member with reference to her challenger.

Kim, an educator and housing advocate, ran a progressive campaign that staunchly criticized Mayor Adam’s “austerity budget” and called restoring cuts to public education a “number one priority” on her website. 

In a much more crowded District 26 race in the 2021 election, Kim came out in eighth place amid fifteen total candidates and no incumbent. In this race, she was Won’s only challenger. 

The election occurred just two years into the term due to redistricting which responds to decennial census data. City law requires an off-cycle election every other redistricting cycle to address significant changes to boundaries. The newly drawn lines removed a section of Astoria, while adding a chunk of Maspeth. 

The fight for justice is a marathon, not a sprint. I am excited that we broadened the coalition in support of economic and racial justice while opposing austerity together,” wrote Kim who moved on to criticizing this year’s budget, which passed shortly after the election. 

This time around, twelve city council members voted no for a budget that included significant cuts to education and housing, while increasing funding for policing. Councilmember Tiffany Caban, who represents Astoria, Steinway-Ditmars and Jackson Heights, was the sole Queens elected to vote against it. 

“It has been the honor of my life to serve the people and places I love,” said Won. “Now, it’s time to get back to work!”

The citywide turnout, which has always been chronically low, was just 6.5 percent this election cycle. A total of 174,544 New Yorkers live in District 26, and only 5,850 votes were cast. 

In November, Won will be up against Republican Marvin Jeffcoat who unsuccessfully vied for the seat in 2017 and 2021. 

Rain Didn’t Stop Sunnyside Pride

By Iryna Shkurhan | ishkurhan@queensledger.com

Rain and thunder didn’t stop Sunnyside from kicking off LGBT Pride Month with the second annual SunnyPride on June 2.

Beginning at Lowery Plaza, on Queens Blvd. and 40th St, at 6 p.m, elected officials and community advocates held a rally denouncing the attacks on the LGTBTQ+ community nationwide and locally. Council Member Julie Won, State Senator Michael Gianaris and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez expressed solidarity with the community and said that they will continue to fight to secure equal rights.

Over a hundred attendees proceeded to march underneath the 7 train to Bliss Plaza on 46th St. where a queer art market and performances awaited the crowd. A marching band led the parade to the next plaza, covered from the rain by the train above.

“I’m the community board chair, and I’m queer. And you’re the director of the Sunnyside BID and you’re queer. Why don’t we have a queer event?” recalled Morry Galonoy, the second Vice Chair of CB2, when he asked Dirk McCall, the executive director of Sunnyside Shines, to plan a pride event just three weeks out last year.

“We are not only celebrating, we are marching in protest of the folks that are trying to trample our rights. We cannot let that happen, we have to stand, be counted, be seen, be visible and take up space,” continued Galonoy during the rally.

Rain began to come down with some thunder and lightning as the rally began to transition into a march. But that did not stop the community from carrying on with the celebration with full energy.

“I see a crowd where your faces are welcoming, where trans faces are welcome. Because you’re in this crowd,” said Émilia Decaudin, Democratic District Leader and youngest ever elected State Committee Member at the rally. “This is what Queens means.”

Decaudin is the first openly transgender party official in the state and staunch advocate of transgender rights.

At a Queer Makers Mart, various artists set up tables to display and sell their prints, custom mugs and tote bags. Initially, vendors set up their stands at the Sunnyside arch block, but they relocated to underneath the train at Bliss St. due to the rain.

One artist, Lili Rochelle, displayed watercolor prints in various sizes from her “Bodies” collection which seeks to embrace the female form. She says that her art is made through a queer lens for people of color.

One of the main sponsors of the event was Romantic Depot, an adult sex toy and lingerie store with twelve locations across the tri-state area. Their Woodside location on 47th Street and Queens Blvd, is just a block from where the event was held. Store employees carried a banner during the march and gave out coupons and free gifts to the crowd.

Other sponsors included Elmhurst Hospital, Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District, Public Health Solutions, Department of Cultural Affairs, Department of Transportation and Queens Community Board 2.

“They introduced more than 600 pieces of legislation across this country, against the LGBTQ community,” said Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez about her fellow members of congress. “And we cannot let that stand. So together, we will fight hate, we will come together to make our country a better country.”

The event culminated with several dance performances from drag queens and a story time reading from one of the performers to children in attendance. But the adults also tuned in attentively to the reading of the pride themed book.

A no cover after-party was held at Alewife Brewery, located at 41-11 39th Street, after 9 p.m. There, attendees were able to purchase “One Love Beer,” a hazy double IPA, with proceeds going to the Queens Center for Gay Seniors in Jackson Heights. Live music was played by singer-songwriter Janex followed by a performance from drag queen Angela Mansberry.

Julie Won Talks Misogyny, Housing and Education

By Iryna Shkurhan | ishkurhan@queensledger.com

Julie Won isn’t scared of conflict and confrontation, in her own words – she thrives in it. 

Since assuming office in the beginning of 2022, the Western Queens councilwoman spearheaded negotiations for the largest private affordable housing development in Queens history, securing 20 percent more affordable units than developers proposed. And as someone who moved to the United States from Korea at age six, she focused on immigrant communities to pass legislation mandating vital city notices be accessible in other languages.

In a sit down interview with the Queens Ledger last week, Won used words such as pragmatic, confrontational and even rigid to describe herself. She attributes her approach as an elected official to being an Aries, a fire sign anecdotally known to represent bravery and boldness. 

Won came out on top of one of the most crowded city council primaries in the 2021 cycle, with 11 other democratic candidates vying to represent Sunnyside, Woodside, Astoria and Long Island City. Despite the initial density, over 18,000 locals turned out to vote in the general election, more than double the 7,709 ballots cast in the previous election. She replaced Jimmy Van Bramer, who represented the district since 2009 and did not run for reelection. 

She credits the high voter turnout to her team knocking on over 70,000 doors leading up to voting day, rejecting the assumption the District 26 “doesn’t vote” with the numbers to prove it. 

While she is a political newcomer, her background in data analytics, technology and marketing easily translated to running a successful campaign and fitting into the world of budget negotiations and all things legislation. Won previously worked for IBN in various roles for a decade, most recently as a digital strategy consultant right up until she took office. 

As the first Korean-American elected to city council at 32, Won is progressive without taking a full-blown Democratic-Socialist stance like Tiffany Caban and Jennifer Gutirrez in neighboring districts. She is pro-union, collaborative with organizers and supported holding the NYPD accountable for aggressive policing during the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020.

Won also says that she’s staunchly pro-public schools and disapproves of investments in charter schools, which critics say operate at a cheaper cost but siphon funding from public schools. And as someone who attended public schools for most of her life, Won says that her child, who recently turned one, will do the same when it’s time to enroll.  

“We have to fix the public education system as they’re privatizing it,” said Won. “I don’t have a single parent in my district begging me to open up a charter school. I have every single parent rallying to make sure that a charter school does not open in this district.”

Won received some criticism for voting to approve the controversial city budget last year, which included defunding public schools by $469 million. Only six members voted against it, including Caban who represents Astoria. 

She expressed that her vote to pass the overall budget does not necessarily signify a vote on just one line. 

Won also pointed out that given the rate of students leaving the NYC public school system due to pandemic relocation, schools should not receive the same level of funding now. Enrollment at NYC public schools is down 11 percent since the pandemic after 813,000 students in grades K-12 left the system, according to reporting by Chalkbeat. 

“If you understand the logic of what your job role is, you understand that your role as a legislator is to advocate and fight for a budget that is as close as possible to where I want it to look like,” said Won, who said that legislators who vote to reject the budget, delay long term solutions and reduce additional funding for their own districts. 

Since emerging in the political scene, Won says that she has encountered a fair share of misogyny, especially since she was pregnant during her campaign and gave birth just months after taking office. 

“I’m pregnant, not brain dead,” said the council member in response to critics who criticized her decision to choose both — motherhood and a far-reaching career. 

In order to be present for budget negotiations, which can not be attended virtually, her maternity leave amounted to less than a month. She also pointed out that she continued to work up until 24 hours before giving birth. 

“Because of my own upbringing, I think of having to be independent, I do better in high stress situations,” said Won, who secured her first job at 16 and moved out while being financially independent two years later. 

That mentality got her through negotiations for Innovation QNS, where she was able to secure a deal where 45% of 3,000 units will be designated affordable. Developers initially proposed that 75% of units will be at market rate. When renderings included designer retailers in the commercial space, she pushed for more apartments instead. 

Won says that in her district, 88 percent of people are renters. And with the city currently enduring an affordability crisis, contributed to by shortage of housing and skyrocketing rent, the deal was pivotal for the housing security of thousands of Queens residents.

At an Astoria rally for Good Cause Eviction legislation to be included in the state budget last month, Won shared that since she took office, thousands of constituents have come to her office distressed over eviction notices and the inability to afford the rising cost of rent and utilities. 

In response she hired a housing lawyer through CUNY Law School to represent residents in her district facing eviction. Since October 2022, he has come in twice a month and met with dozens of constituents pro bono.

While she says she is not a DSA member, and did not receive their endorsement, her policy stances paint her to be socialist-adjacent. She stood alongside exclusively DSA endorsed officials and organizers at the rally in support of the progressive vision. 

“I work with anybody who’s willing to work with me if our vision or mission aligns for the betterment of my community,” said Won about politicians on both sides. 

That includes the Working Families Party (WFP), whose higher ups vetoed her endorsement during her first run despite the Queens chapter offering their endorsement. Instead, the WFP endorsed Amit Bagga, another progressive candidate who trailed her on election day. Won attributed it to the “political machine” being “alive and well” in a response on Twitter immediately after. 

Following the rejection, her husband Eugene Noh, who also ran her campaign, said “f*** the working families party” in an interview with Matthew Thomas, an independent reporter. 

During her interview with the Queens Ledger, where Noh was also present, he said “she’s happy to start fresh” with the WFP and pointed out that they endorsed her in this upcoming cycle.  

It appears that Won and her husband are partners in life and work. The couple say that they have known each other since they were teenagers. 

In another immigrant-supportive step, she hired local residents who speak Bengal, Nepali and Spanish to better serve her constituents in her Sunnyside office on Queens Boulevard. She says her office has resolved over 2,000 cases since taking office. 

“Making sure our bread and butter is constituent services to make sure people have the constituent requests met, and making sure that I get the most money every single year for this district,” is top priority, said Won. 

CB2 Demands Response from Ardila

By Iryna Shkurhan | ishkurhan@queensledger.com

Western Queens pols and Community Board 2 members pressed Assemblyman Juan Ardila to acknowledge sweeping calls to resign at their recent Zoom meeting on May 4. 

Allegations that the Assemblyman sexually assaulted two women in 2015 first emerged in March. Initially, he issued a “no comment” response but later asserted a “commitment to accountability” and chose to hire a personal lawyer to conduct an investigation into the allegations. Since then, a slew of city and state officials have called for his resignation. Most notably, Governor Kathy Hochul and the Working Families Party that endorsed him. 

“You cannot ignore the call for resignation from the victim and then not saying anything, you have to explain why you’re refusing to resign,” said Council Member Julie Won during the meeting.

The councilwoman accused Ardila of intimidating his accusers through his personal lawyer. She also mentioned that he reached out to one of the victim’s father’s to inform him of the allegations his daughter brought forward. 

“It’s not okay for you to expose their names and intimidate them and call their father telling him that their daughter was sexually assaulted by you or are alleging that you did that,” said Won. “That is not okay.”

Won, who represents Sunnyside in Ardila’s district, also said that she has received “angry text messages” from constituents who are “incredibly upset” that he has not resigned, nor provided an explanation why. 

“This is certainly an issue that should interest our entire district,” said Council Member Kristen Gonzalez, who was one of the critical voices of city to state officials who called on Ardila to resign. 

After Ardila initially spoke at the meeting to discuss his involvement in the state budget that recently passed in Albany, Gonzalez stepped in to discredit his role in budget negotiations. Ardila was the only freshman Democrat to not receive an assigned budget committee, per the elected officials at the meeting.

“For example, All-Electric Buildings was carried by Assemblymember Gallagher who has also called for him to resign. He mentioned the Build Public Renewables Act, something that was worked on by the Democratic Socialists of America. Again, all DSA electeds overlapping have called on him to resign. He mentioned Good Cause Eviction, a bill carried by Senator Salazar, another woman and survivor who has called on him to resign,” reinforced Gonzalez. 

Despite Ardila’s continuous dismissal of the allegations as a “personal matter” during the call, CB2 Chairperson, Danielle Brecker, and other members of the board reinforced that they see it as a “community issue” instead. 

“To hear you say it’s personal, doesn’t take into account that this is societal. And that none of us deserve to experience that,” said CB2 member Sheila Lewandowski who shared that she is a survivor of multiple incidents of sexual assault, some of which fit the description of Ardila’s victims. 

Ardila stated several times that he plans to address the issue, but did not offer a specific timeline during the meeting.

“It’s disappointing because there’s things that are being said that haven’t come from me, haven’t come from my circle. And like I said, I will address it. You are going to hear from me,” Ardila replied during the meeting. “But I do not believe that our community board is the space to do so on personal issues like that.”

Ardila’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

“What you’re doing is harming our community. And that is not a private matter. You have not made it a personal matter, because now it is affecting my constituents and your constituents and Kristen Gonzalez’s constituents and our neighbors,” reinforced Won. 

Sunnyside Mom, Meditation Teacher Publishes First Book

Will Preview Book in Greenpoint

By Stephanie Meditz


As a mom, meditation teacher and life coach, Sunnyside resident Sandrine Marlier hopes to teach children to process complex emotions – a valuable skill for people of all ages.

When it is published on April 4, her debut children’s book “Odette’s Alphabet” will accomplish just that.

The story follows an ant named Odette who wakes up one day feeling stressed, but takes a deep breath and feels better.

Odette then meets a mouse named Marcus, who feels scared. The two talk about their emotions and find ways to feel better.

After a series of mindfulness activities that correspond to each letter of the alphabet, Odette feels calm again.

Odette and Marcus walk each other home, and she returns to her colony to teach the other ants what she has learned.

“Mindfulness is throughout the day, and to me it’s seeing the sacred in the ordinary moment,” Marlier said in a phone interview. “ Just taking a breath, a meaningful, conscious breath, that is mindful. Spending quality time with someone, that’s a moment of mindfulness, because you’re aware of how precious that moment is.”

Odette’s Alphabet includes several breathing and tapping exercises, energy healing techniques and positive affirmations.

While writing “Odette’s Alphabet,” Marlier recalled things that she says to her six-year-old daughter, Emma.

“Kids are funny because they are so much smarter than some people think,” she said. “When it’s said simply, they understand concepts that could seem more complex to grown-ups, because they don’t have preconceptions about it.”

Marlier has been a model for the past 20 years. She first turned to meditation to cope with her own anxiety, and her mood drastically improved after just a few weeks.

She then began training with davidji, a meditation teacher and stress-management expert with nearly 40k subscribers on YouTube.

Shortly after she began training, she started writing “Odette’s Alphabet.”

“I was in a hair and makeup chair one day and there was a little ant walking on the windowsill,” she said. “She was so cute, so I started doodling her,” she said.

Once Marlier finished her meditation teacher training, she drew an ant screaming the letter A to manifest herself in the world.

She showed it to a friend, who asked if she was writing a children’s book with the alphabet. This inspired her to write “Odette’s Alphabet.”

“I had so much fun. I started writing down letters that were all concepts that were important to me and that I wish I had explored with my parents as a guidebook,” she said.

She also had a great time working with illustrator Leonardo Schiavina on illustrations that would catch both children and parents’ eyes.


“Odette’s Alphabet” teaches children how to process their emotions, along with the alphabet.

On April 4 at 6 p.m, Marlier will hold a free book reading event at WORD Bookstore in Greenpoint.

“The goal is to do an introduction of Odette and how it can benefit parents, especially parents who are very busy and might feel like they don’t have time for mindfulness,” she said. “We’re going to do a few mindful exercises so I can show them that in a very few minutes, we can relax and do it with our little one.”

The event will conclude with a Q&A session and book signing.

To RSVP, visit https://shop.wordbookstores.com/event/word-presents-sandrine-marlier.

“Odette’s Alphabet” will be available for purchase at WORD Bookstore on April 4. It is available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and https://www.brandylanepublishers.com.

“Mindfulness teaches you…to deepen your understanding of your inner world as well as your outer world. If we don’t know who we are, we can’t control what’s happening inside of us,” Marlier said. “I think, if we could all learn from a young age how to acknowledge the emotions we have and have the tools to control our reaction to it, we would all get along better.”

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