Peralta announced in January his membership with the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a breakaway group of eight Democratic senators that are working in a coalition with Senate Republicans. Though the State Senate has 32 Democrats, the IDC allows Republicans to retain the majority.
The Working Families Party (WFP) is holding rallies across the city to demand that the IDC members rejoin the traditional Democratic caucus in the State Senate, thereby giving the Democrats control of the chamber. About two dozen residents from Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Corona on Wednesday passed out fliers to educate people about the alliance.
Juan Antigua, WFP’s political director for New York, said the group is calling on Peralta and the IDC “to end their alliance with Trump Republicans in the Senate.”
“In November, New Yorkers voted for him on the Working Families line and the Democratic line to pass progressive legislation and we want him to do just that,” Antigua said. “We’re trying to pass the DREAM Act, we’re trying to reform the rent laws and strengthen the rent laws…and we’re not going to be able to do that with this alliance going on.”
In an email to constituents in January, Peralta argued that the IDC “has demonstrated its ability to deliver real results for constituents” including passing legislation to provide paid parental leave and a minimum wage increase.
Rank has its privileges
The alliance has given Senators perks like additional discretionary funding for constituents, larger offices and staff and stipends that are referred to as “lulus.” In May, The New York Times revealed that three members of the IDC had received thousands of dollars for committee chairmanships that they didn’t hold.
The members, including Peralta, were listed as chairmen of the committees when they actually served as vice chairs. Peralta, who serves as the vice chair for the Energy and Telecommunications Committee, received $12,500. Instead of providing the money to the head of the committee, it was given to Peralta, which technically is not against the law.
Legislative Law 5-a does not say that chairmen can transfer their money to vice chairs but also does not prohibit this transfer.
Antigua said that WFP does not have a problem with senators providing more money to constituents and is not working to “dismantle” the IDC, but rather wants to call them out on stalling progressive legislation.
“They dole out some discretionary funds which are vital and necessary,” Antigua said. “We don’t have any problem with that. The problem is working with Trump Republicans to stop an agenda.”
‘Betrayed’ by senator’s allegiance
Jackson Heights resident Susan Kang, who is a part of the all volunteer group No IDC NY said she felt “betrayed” when she found out that Peralta had joined the IDC.
“I felt that living in a community like Jackson Heights, this part of northern Queens, that we would always have representatives that would take progressive values and the diversity of our community seriously [and] would be committed to them.”
She added that No IDC NY is trying to educate New Yorkers about what IDC is.
“[We want to] let New Yorkers know that the reason why we’re stalled on any progressive reforms is because of the IDC despite that we’re a state that goes 60 percent democratic,” she said. “We have things like single payer, comprehensive reproductive health, DREAM Act, laws that would fully fund public schools all stalled because of the IDC.”
The political professor at John Jay College also said that when she looked at the bills currently stalled in the Assembly her “jaw dropped.”
Teenager giving senator a challenge
Tahseen Chowdhury, a 16-year-old East Elmhurst resident also attended the rally. He is the first candidate to run against Peralta in the 2018 election.
“I think he’s doing a terrible job representing the values he was elected on, the values the community believes in and I think I can do a better job,” he said. “I was born here, I was raised here I’ve lived my entire life here in Queens, and I don’t think it’s OK that he’s selling himself out for money, for bigger offices and for more aides.”
The Stuyvesant student said he’s been interested in politics since middle school and currently serves as the Manhattan Borough Student President, a position where he works with the Department of Education on education policy.
He has an entire section devoted to explaining what the IDC is on his website and is arguing that New York should lead the way on progressive legislation.
“We should be at the forefront of the progressive movement,” Chowdhury said. “When people think progressive in the United States they should think New York and we have the numbers to prove it. but we don’t have the State Senate. We don’t have the State Senate because a couple of rogue Democrats decided to conference with the IDC and decided to work with the GOP and it doesn’t make any sense.”
Chowdhury also wants to increase the youth vote, adding that the turnout for State Senate elections in New York is at 18 percent — “that’s a terrible number.”
According to his website, the main issues he will try to tackle are senior issues, affordable housing, safe streets, the Child Victims Act and immigration.
He added that no matter what the outcome of the election is, he would “continue advocating for the community on every single level.”
IDC tells Democrats to just ‘call the roll’
The IDC on Wednesday called on all Democrats in the senate to sign a pledge to “call the roll” and vote on progressive legislation. In a video, they outlined seven pieces of “progressive legislation” that they are willing to support including the DREAM Act, the Reproductive Health Act, protecting Title X funding, GENDA, public campaign finance, single-payer health care and the Contraceptive Care Act.
“I understand people are upset, especially regarding specific issues that will move our state forward,” Peralta said in a statement. “And this is why we are asking all Democrats in the State Senate to sign a pledge and co-sponsor progressive legislation. With 32 members on board, we guarantee the passage of these bills. If that is not the case, all we are doing is setting up the bills for failure and there is too much at stake.”