By Bill Parry
The Jackson Heights community lost a giant this week when longtime civic leader Ivan Lafayette died this week at the age of 86.
The U.S. Army veteran and his wife Bertine moved to the neighborhood in 1956 and just over 20 years later he went to Albany to represent Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Corona in the state Assembly, where he served until 2008.
“I am extremely saddened by the passing of former Assembly Deputy Speaker Ivan Lafayette,” state Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-East Elmhurst) said. “I knew Mr. Lafayette for many years, and he was not only my predecessor in the Assembly but a good friend. For 32 years Ivan Lafayette represented northern Queens in the New York State Assembly, and he championed many issues, especially around education and building up and protecting our schools.”
Lafayette was born July 28, 1930 in Monticello, N.Y. and grew up in Brooklyn, where he attended public schools before going to Brooklyn College. He served in the U.S. Army from December 1952 to Decenber 1954.
During his career in the state Assembly, Lafayette sponsored hundreds of bills that became law including the Truth In Testing Law for college applicants as well as his Uninsured Motorist’s Law, which created penalties for driving without insurance coverage. He served as the leader of the Queens delegation and as speaker pro tempore.
“I want to extend my deepest condolences to his family and may it comfort them that an entire community will join them in mourning his loss,” U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) said. “For 12 years, I had the honor of serving alongside him in the state Legislature and I witnessed firsthand how deeply he cared about the people he represented. Through his more than three decades of public service, Ivan touched the lives of so many and I know he will be sorely missed.”
Funeral services were scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday at the Schwartz Brothers Funeral Home at 114-03 Queens Blvd. in Forest Hills.
“While Mr. Lafayette’s accomplishments and leadership in Albany were commendable, he will best be remembered as a pillar in our community, and as someone who loved and fought for Jackson Heights over his entire career,” DenDekker said. “My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Bertine, and his entire family during this difficult time.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr