8 FEBRUARY 11, 2021 RIDGEWOOD TIMES WWW.QNS.COM
Myrtle Avenue small business owners discuss their
concerns with Ridgewood City Council candidate
BY ANGÉLICA ACEVEDO
City Council candidate Juan Ardila and state Senator
Jessica Ramos entered Tasty’s Diner to ask the
establishment’s owner if he’d like to talk about his
concerns as a small business owner.
“Concerns? We don’t have enough time or alcohol,”
Tasty’s owner George Lagos chuckled.
But Lagos made some time, and spoke about the
hardships of maintaining his business for what is
nearly a year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lagos, who
noted Tasty’s has been in Ridgewood for 40 years,
said not having indoor dining and getting “a bunch”
of violations from the Department of Transportation
for his outdoor setup are some of his biggest issues.
While Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a week
ago that indoor dining will come back at 25 percent
capacity on Feb. 14, just in time for Valentine’s Day,
Lagos sees it as “short notice.”
“It’s a mess,” Lagos said. “You can’t expect people
to bounce back aft er they’ve been closed. I’ve been
fortunate enough that I haven’t closed, but somebody
who’s been closed for the last eight weeks … they
need time to prep, they need time to rehire staff . You
can’t just throw this together in a week and hope for
Ramos agreed “there’s been very little clarity” and
“very little input from the restaurants themselves”
when it comes to the state’s guidelines.
Ramos joined Ardila, a Democrat running for
Council District 30, for a walk-through of Myrtle
Avenue to talk with some local business owners and
ask for their support by sporting a campaign poster
on their storefront on Friday, Feb. 5.
Some of Ardila’s main platform points revolve
around aff ordable and fair housing, public transportation
and investing in education. When it comes
to small businesses, Ardila told QNS he wants to help
them get the resources and relief they need by “partnering
with allies in Albany and Washington, D.C.”
He wants to help keep small businesses in their
spaces by supporting rental assistance programs;
restructuring to allow business owners time to recover;
expanding the Visiting Inspector Program
to ensure businesses can receive free consultation
on compliance with city laws and licenses; reducing
unfair fi nes from the city; and collaborating closely
with the Department of Small Business Services to
help businesses adapt to online platforms and equip
them with various language access.
Ardila was critical of incumbent Councilman Robert
Holden’s role in aiding small businesses. He cited
instances of Holden voting “against the interests of
working-class New Yorkers,” such as voting against
the expansion of street vendor licenses, paid safe
and sick leave, assisting displaced hotel workers and
making rent regulation easier — all of which the City
“The incumbent, unfortunately, voted against extending
outdoor dining in a time where businesses
were struggling,” Ardila said. “He clearly hasn’t
shown that much support for them.”
When asked for his response to Holden’s calls to
open indoor dining to 50 percent capacity, Ardila
said it’s “irresponsible.”
Holden wants the governor to allow for the city’s
restaurants to open indoor dining at the same capacity
of Long Island, where there is a higher positivity
rate of COVID-19 compared to the city, before more
go out of business.
Guillermina Ramirez, owner (right) of Ricas Pupusas and her staff pose for a photo at her
restaurant in Ridgewood on Feb. 5, 2021. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann
“I don’t think we’re there yet,” Ardila said, noting
that although restaurant workers are now eligible
to get the COVID-19 vaccine, many have yet to
Ramos, who endorsed Ardila in December, echoed
“We’ve gone through a really diffi cult time here
in Queens. We’ve lost, I think, nearly 8,000 of our
loved ones. Many of our families are still grieving.
Opening up to 50 percent capacity for the sake of
saving the economy, but putting everybody at risk
is very, very irresponsible. Council member Holden
continues to disappoint me every step of the way.”
Ramos explained she’s supporting Ardila because
she doesn’t believe Holden is successfully representing
the various communities in Council District 30,
which encompasses the Queens neighborhoods
of Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village,
Woodhaven and Woodside.
“When you become an elected offi cial, you have
to become an elected offi cial for every single one
of your neighbors — no matter who they are, no
matter if they voted for you, no matter if they can
vote,” Ramos said. “You cannot continue to ignore
communities of color in your district. Especially
when they’re going through possibly the biggest
struggle they’ve ever gone through in their lives.
We’re here to uplift communities of color. We’re
here to uplift all working people. We’re here to make
sure our seniors are protected and that our children
have a brighter future ahead of them, where they
see themselves in power, and so that other Juan
Ardilas who are growing up in this district now see
that it’s possible to lead their communities in the
way that Juan is.”
Ardila is confi dent he’ll win the primary as the
“real Democrat” in the race. Holden, a registered
Democrat, won the seat in 2018’s general election
by running on several GOP party lines, aft er he lost
to former Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley in the
That aft ernoon, three volunteers tagged along to
distribute Ardila’s campaign fl yers to passersby.
Michael Pereira, 24, was one of those volunteers.
The Woodhaven resident said he sees Holden as a
“divisive fi gure,” and that he doesn’t see his community
of immigrants represented by him.
“He seems to put his own constituents against
each other, and that’s unfortunate,” Pereira said.
Aft er visiting about a dozen businesses on Myrtle
Avenue’s business corridor, they all stopped at
newly opened Pupusas Ridgewood on 71-20 Fresh
Pond Rd. for a treat.
Ardila said Pupusas Ridgewood, a quaint space
catered for takeout and delivery, has become “the
spot” in the neighborhood.
Guillermina Ramirez, Pupusas Ridgewood
owner, said navigating a new business during a
pandemic has been “an odyssey.” But is thankful
for the community’s support.
“Thanks to all of them, we’re still here,” Ramirez
said in Spanish.
Ramirez, who’s lived in Ridgewood for more than
15 years, said she’s also counted on the support of
her staff of three women.
Ramirez said she’ll be looking into the COVID-19
vaccination for her and her staff soon, saying “it
should be a priority for everyone to protect themselves
and the community.”
Ramos was one of the elected offi cials who urged
Cuomo to add food delivery workers and to the
groups eligible for the vaccine.
“I’ve been very vocal about vaccinating restaurant
workers and hospitality workers precisely
because we’re forcing them to work. We’ve created
a desperation for work, because we have been
unable to tax the wealthy and keep people home
safely, at least for a few weeks until public health
experts decide that it’s safe for us to come back out
and interact in the way that we should,” Ramos said.
“That would have been the responsible thing to do,
and we can do it at any time — we can still do it. It’s
never too late.”
Ramirez said she isn’t too familiar with the current
local elected offi cials, but believes there are
many ways to improve the neighborhood.
“More programs for schools to help children,
they’re taking away a lot of programs for arts and
things like that. Keeping the neighborhood peaceful,”
Ramirez said. “Maybe a park for sports, adult
literacy programs. Businesses need help too, now
more than ever because of the pandemic, there’s
always bills and debts, and their help means a lot.
There’s still a lot to do.”