Supporters and former colleague jammed a Jackson Heights street Sunday to honor the late state Senator José R. Peralta with a street co-naming at 79th Street and 37th Avenue where he lived with his family.
A beloved civic leader, Peralta made history by becoming the first Dominican-American elected to the New York State Senate where he served from 2010 until his death from cancer complications in 2018.
“Today we honor the life of an extraordinary man who dedicated his professional life to serving the neighborhoods that comprise Northwest Queens,” City Councilman Daniel Dromm said. “Senator Prealta and I were friends for close to 20 years. As we were both fond of saying, ‘he was my brother from another mother.’ Senator Peralta’s work in the local community and his dedication to immigrant New Yorkers makes him truly deserving of this commemoration. May his selfless devotion to the people of Queens inspire a new generation of leadership.”
Peralta introduced the New York State Dream Act in 2013 and increased its support over the following years. The Act, renamed the José Peralta New York State Dream Act in his honor after his untimely death, passed the state legislature and was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo earlier this year.
“No one is more deserving of this incredible honor than my late husband Senator José R. Peralta,” Evelyn Peralta, a long-time civic leader and Jackson Heights resident, said. “From DREAMers, to low wage workers, to seniors, José fought every day to protect their rights and dignity. My late husband paved the way for so many, and this sign will be a reminder of his unwavering dedication and unconditioned love for his community.”
Prior to his election to the Senate, Peralta served in the Assembly from 2002 to 2010. Peralta advocated for working families, he fought to ensure quality public education for all, he was a champion of economic development and job creation and he was a fighter for immigrant rights.
Peralta became a polarizing figure in Western Queens when he joined the renegade Independent Democratic Conference “to have a seat at the table” and “pursue progressive ideals” in a legislation that was under Republican control for years. The blowback was intense, especially in Jackson Heights where the NO IDC movement spawned a progressive movement giving rise to Jessica Ramos, a former Peralta supporter who left City Hall to depose him in the Democratic primary in Sept. 2018.
None of that mattered at the ceremony, as Peralta was remembered as a legislator of principled advocacy and genuine kindness.
“We memorialize Senator José Peralta with a street co-naming today, a recognition he deserved but one that came too soon,” City Councilman Francisco Moya said. “He was a fighter, a leader and a tireless advocate. I thank him for the work he did and the lives he made better.”