By Bill Parry
The political class in Queens lost a prominent figure, a beloved former lawmaker and a First Lady who traced her roots to Flushing in 2018.
State Sen. Jose Peralta died Nov. 21 at the age of 47 from an illness and was remembered fondly for his advocacy for the underrepresented, including undocumented immigrants and the LGBT community, by fellow Queens elected officials.
“Jose was a fighter for those who did not have the voice,” City Councilman Daniel 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.
The IDC 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.
Longtime state Sen. Frank Padavan died of a heart attack in October at the age of 83.
A Republican, Padavan went to Albany in 1972 as the state senator from the 11th District, a seat he would hold for 38 years representing a wide swath of northeast Queens.
“I was friends with Frank for 38 years from his very first campaign. I was the state director of the Conservative Party at the time and he was an unknown quantity but we liked him from the start,” Serphin Maltese said. “He was a towering figure in the state Senate. For 38 years he was an independent voice in the Senate with a great amount of credibility. That’s why he kept getting re-elected in a district where Democrats outnumbered Republicans three to one.”
Padavan fought hard for mental health patient rights, education, fairness in the criminal justice system and he was a fierce opponent of gambling.
“He was anti-gambling and anti-lottery, that was one of his hallmarks,” Maltese said. “He thought the government was victimizing the middle class and poor people by picking their pockets.”
Padavan spent more than half of his life representing the people of Queens before losing to state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) in the November 2010 general election.
In the late 1970s, homeowners in northeast Queens resisted group homes for adults with developmental disabilities in their neighborhoods, but Padavan saw the benefits as a human right.
In 1978, New York’s Padavan Law passed, preventing communities from excluding group homes unless the area is already saturated or a better site in the same community could be found.
Padavan was predeceased by his wife Johanne and he is survived by two adult children.
Flushing-born Former First Lady Barbara Bush died in April following a battle with an unspecified illness. She was 92.
Born on June 8, 1925, at Booth Memorial Hospital in Flushing, Barbara Pierce became the first lady during the 1989-1993 Presidency of George H.W. Bush and was the mother of the 43rd president, George W. Bush, who occupied the office from 2001 to 2009.
She met her future husband at a school dance at Ashley Hall in Charleston, S.C., in 1945. After World War II and a stint at Smith College, she married at 19 and had six children, including a daughter named Robin, who died of leukemia at 3 years old in 1953.
Bush had the distinction of being the second woman to be the wife and mother of U.S. presidents, the first being Abigail Adams. She also was a descendant of President Franklin Pierce.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr