By Bill Parry
Two City Councilmen from northwest Queens demanded state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) reverse course and rejoin the mainline Democrats in Albany.
Councilmen Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and Costa Constantinides joined dozens at a rally outside the Jackson Heights post office Feb. 23 where organizer Susan Kang explained the community’s anger after Peralta announced he was defecting to the Independent Democratic Conference last month, ensuring Republican control of the state Senate.
“I want to emphasize that is a grass roots movement. This is a result of citizens getting together and saying this is not okay,” Kang said. “We elected Democrats to provoke a progressive agenda in Albany. Albany is broken and it will stay broken and the IDC is one of the main reasons why. It is not only the constituents of the senators in the IDC that are hurt by this decision, it’s all of New York state. These senators are keeping all of New York state hostage from the progressive policies we deserve and voted for. Why should California have all the fun?”
Kang went on to list the major pieces of legislation Republicans have been blocking in the Senate including the Dream Act, Criminal Justice Reform, Voting Reform, Campaign Finance and Ethics Reform, and tenant protections to keep New York affordable.
“We went out and we petitioned for Sen. Jose Peralta,” Dromm said. “We went out on the ground and did the work for him. We went out and asked people to vote for him. We put our power where our mouths are and made that happen in this community.”
Constantinides remembered knocking on doors for Peralta during his Senate campaign in 2010.
“He has betrayed this community in this way, going to caucus with the party of Trump at a time when our values are under attack,” he said. “Where immigrant families are feeling unease and possible deportation, he stands with the party that won’t defend them.”
At the same moment, Peralta was at the Langston Hughes Library in Corona updating East Elmhurst homeowners on $33 million in upgrades the city’s Department of Environmental Protection is investing in their decaying sewage system to prevent severe flooding every time it rains — something they’ve been battling for decades. The night before, Peralta hosted a forum at PS 19 to discuss steps he is taking to protect immigrants in his district in the face of President Trump’s federal raids.
“I want to make sure that my constituents know that they are not fighting alone against this administration, and this is why it is very important that they know what to do in case officers ask them about their immigration status, if they are approached or if they are taken into custody,” Peralta said.
He was very aware of Dromm and Constantinides taking part in the Jackson Heights rally. Peralta stood by his decision to join the IDC, where he believes he can best effect progressive change on issues like affordable housing, economic development, healthcare, school funding equity and homelessness reforms.
“Look, over time people will come to realize that I’m still the same progressive that I’ve been for the last 14 years,” Peralta said. “Now more than ever it’s important to have that seat at the table so we can push back at what is happening at the federal level that may trickle down and negatively affect us as a state. Now more than ever we cannot sit on the sidelines for the next two years. My community couldn’t afford that. Elected officials in other districts can sit on the sidelines for the next two years, but the average income for families in my district is $30,000 to $35,000 a year and people depend on services that they might be denied. I simply can’t stand by idly watching. I hope people understand this as time goes by.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr