By Zach Gewelb and Robert Pozarycki
Jose Peralta, who had represented northwest Queens in the state Assembly and state Senate over the last 16 years, died suddenly Wednesday night. He was just 47.
The incumbent state senator died while undergoing treatment at Elmhurst Hospital, surrounded by his family, according to WPIX-TV. The New York Daily News reported that Peralta had apparently suffered a heart attack.
Christopher Sosa, a spokesperson for Peralta’s office, confirmed that the state senator died Nov. 21 at 9:23 p.m., but that “the precise details around medical cause of death are still being determined.”
“The senator’s family asks for privacy as they grieve,” Sosa said in a statement. “We are deeply grateful for the outpouring of support and love we’ve received amid this heartbreaking loss.”
All around Queens, Peralta’s colleagues and even rivals mourned his passing.
“Tragic news about @SenatorPeralta,” state Sen. Michael Gianaris wrote on Twitter. “My heart goes out to his family. Rest In Peace.”
Peralta was in his final weeks as a state senator; he lost his re-election bid to challenger Jessica Ramos in the September Democratic primary after a hard-fought campaign. Ramos also took to Twitter to mourn Peralta’s loss.
“José Peralta is gone too soon,” Senator-elect Ramos wrote. “When I met him in 2003 I saw a world of promise for our community & though years later we’d disagree on tackling the issues, I know in his heart he loved his community. He was a true public servant. Strength & love to his wife, sons, and loved ones.”
City Councilman Francisco Moya offered his condolences with a statement released Thanksgiving morning.
“I am heartbroken and shaken over the tragic news of Senator Jose Peralta’s untimely death. The communities we served together, our colleagues, all of Queens and I are joined in grief today,” Moya said. “Jose was a kind man and a friend. Most importantly, he was a terrific husband and an amazing father.”
“His passing is a reminder to us all of how fragile life is and to give our loved ones an extra hug this Thanksgiving,” he added. “Jose will be greatly missed. To his beautiful young family and his loved ones, my heart is with you. Rest in Peace, Jose.”
Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins also released a statement Thursday morning.
“This news is truly shocking and heartbreaking. My deepest condolences go out to his family and friends. He will always be part of the Senate family,” she said.
Mayor de Blasio offered his condolences on Twitter Thursday morning.
“Jose Peralta was a proud son of Queens and the Dominican Republic. He worked his way up from the grassroots, with heart and tenacity,” de Blasio tweeted. “Chirlane and I are both pained by his sudden loss. Our prayers are with his wife Evelyn and his sons.”
Joe Crowley praised Peralta for his dedication to the communities he represented.
“Jose Peralta was an enormous figure in Queens. He was dedicated to our communities and neighborhoods and his lifetime of service will be gratefully remembered by many in New York City,” Crowley said. “Jose was a distinct politician – a man who always did what he felt was right, even if it was politically unpopular. That requires a level of courage and bravery we should all seek to emulate. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, including his young children and wife, Evelyn, during this difficult time.”
Peralta grew up in Washington Heights until the age of 8, when his family relocated to Queens. He went on to graduate from Flushing High School and from Queens College, where he earned a degree in sociology.
In January 2003, Peralta became the first Latino resident elected to represent Queens in the state Assembly. He would serve in the 39th Assembly District seat.
Seven years later, in 2010, voters would elect Peralta to the state Senate in a special election to succeed Hiram Monserrate, who had been expelled from office.
Over the last eight years, Peralta has represented the 13th state Senate District, which includes all or parts of Corona, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and Woodside. During his time in office, he fought for improvements in education, immigration and even conditions on the Roosevelt Avenue streetscape.
In 2017, Peralta joined the Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway group of eight state Senate Democrats that formed a majority coalition with state Senate Republicans.
The move angered many of his constituents, but Peralta said his membership in the IDC would enable him to secure more for his district and pass meaningful legislation. The IDC would rejoin the traditional Democratic caucus in 2018.
Peralta is survived by a wife and two sons. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.