By Bill Parry
A former Democratic district leader from Jackson Heights has left her position at City Hall and is mulling a primary challenge against state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhrust) next year.
Jessica Ramos, 32, resigned as director of Latino Media where she organized Mayor Bill de Blasio’s town halls and City Hall in Your Borough earlier this month so she could assess her chances on the campaign trail.
It’s not official yet. I’m still having conversations with my neighbors and so far what I’ve seen is a real appetite among my neighbors to elect a real Democrat who doesn’t empower Republican,” Ramos said in an interview. “In this current era, state government is our defensive line against the politics of Trump’s White House and it’s more important than ever to have a Democratic majority in the state Senate.”
Ramos has found that time hasn’t healed the wound in her community since Peralta decided to leave the mainline Democrats in January and join the renegade Independent Democratic Caucus, which maintains a power-sharing agreement with the Republicans for control of the state Senate.
“The sense of betrayal in Jackson Heights and the other neighborhoods like Corona, East Elmhurst, LeFrak City, Astoria and Woodside is still very palpable,” Ramos said. “We are very progressive in these communities so for him to betray us was particularly hurtful. Everyone is still very upset with him.”
Peralta said, “I’m confident in putting my long record of Democratic achievements up against anyone’s if they chose to enter the primary and I look forward to a healthy debate over the future of the district and the city.”
When Ramos was district leader from 2010 to 2014, she supported Peralta.
“I volunteered for his campaign in 2010 when he was running to unseat Hiram Monserrate and that was a clear-cut choice and I thought he was standing up for what I believed,” Ramos said. “We’ve looked up to him for a very long time. I personally feel like I’ve been duped. I feel like he’s left some very important issues on the back burner like rent reform. I rent the home where I am raising my two boys. When the lease is up, the landlord can raise it by $600. I’m very lucky that my landlord is a good guy. I’m also dealing with student debt and most of my disposable income goes to that instead of buying a home.”
Her sons are in pre-K and first grade at PS 69.
“PS 69 is another part of this. It’s owed $1.8 million from the state from the Campaign for Fiscal Equity — that’s just PS 69,” said Ramos, who pointed out that “$1.9 billion is owed to public schools citywide. That’s a very big issue for me.”
The nonprofit sued the state of New York, which was ultimately required by the courts to maintain minimum funding for New York City schools.
Ramos grew up in Astoria, knowing at age 14 she would live in Jackson Heights.
“My dad worked for a Colombian non-profit on 83rd Street, so I always came to the neighborhood amazed at the diversity,” she said. “I wanted my boys to reap the benefits from being around people from all over the world.” Ramos dismissed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s deal to unify the two Democratic factions in which the eight members of the IDC would rejoin the mainline Democrats and reclaim the majority.
“The problem with the IDC is even if they come back, you don’t know if they’ll stay — we’ve seen this play out before in 2014,” Ramos said. She expects to make her decision official early next year.
“I have deep connections not just from being a district leader but by being a member of Community Board 3 and the Jackson Heights Beautification Group,” Ramos said. “A lot will depend on the fund-raising. There’s no campaign financing at the state level when it comes to fund-raising, so it’s like the Wild West.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr