By Mark Hallum
The crowd of mourners at St. Joan of Arc Church in Jackson Heights spilled out into the foyer of the large house of worship Tuesday morning as state Sen. Jose Peralta, who died on Nov. 21 at the age of 47 from an illness, was remembered fondly for his advocacy for the underrepresented such as undocumented immigrants and the LGBT community by fellow Queens elected officials.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Mayor Bill de Blasio attended the Nov. 27 funeral, along with City Councilman Daniel Dromm, who shared a district with Peralta.
“Jose was a fighter for those who did not have the voice,” Dromm said. “He was a fighter for our immigrant community, he was the main sponsor of the DREAM Act, he was a fighter for LGBT rights when nobody else would be there for us. He voted for marriage equality. He always spoke up for the little person, he always spoke up for the voiceless.”
Borough President Melinda Katz commented on the fact that although Peralta fell out of favor with much of community by defecting to the Independent Democratic Conference in 2017, paying proper respect to the life-long public servant now a top priority.
“There’s a lot of politics, but at the end of the day our families and friendships transcend that,” Katz said. “As is self-evident today, nobody knows our future. This should be a message to take nothing for granted as we move along day-to-day. At the end of the day, we all want the same thing which is a great future for our family.”
City Councilman Barry Grodenchik, who served in the state Assembly with Peralta, tearfully remembered the late state senator as a close friend of his.
“He always had a smile on his face through some of the darkest moments shared politically, we’d always laugh,” Grodenchik said outside the church, before turning to the topic of passing the DREAM Act. “We have an overwhelming Democratic majority in Albany so there’s really no excuses are there.”
The Independent Democratic Conference was a group of eight state senators who broke away from the mainstream Democratic Party to caucus among themselves and negotiated with Republicans to pass progressive legislation.
Intensely opposed by Democrats across the state, the majority of former IDC members, who had disbanded in April, were voted out of office in the September Democratic primary.
Peralta was among them, having lost his seat to Jessica Ramos.
Peralta was a constant champion for the DREAM Act, for which he was a primary sponsor, and near the end of his life issued a resolution hoping to make New York a sanctuary state.
There is currently a push led by Congressman Adriano Espaillat to name the DREAM Act in honor of Peralta if it is passed and signed into law.
Peralta holds the honor of being the first Dominican American elected to the state Senate.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall