Queens Remembers Sen. Jose Peralta

Before he was elected to the State Senate, Peralta represented State Assembly District 39.AP file photo by Mike Groll.

Before he was elected to the State Senate, Peralta represented State Assembly District 39.AP file photo by Mike Groll.

By David Brand

Queens Daily Eagle

Queens State Sen. Jose Peralta, the first Dominican-American elected to the Senate, died Wednesday night. He was 47.

Peralta’s wake will take place Monday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Joseph Farenga and Sons funeral home, located at 38-08 Ditmars Blvd. in Astoria. The funeral will take place at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at the St. Joan of Arc Roman Catholic Church, located at 82-00 35th Ave. in Jackson Heights.

Across the state, flags have flown at half-staff in honor of Peralta.

In the days since Peralta’s sudden passing, community leaders and everyday residents have reflected on his service to Queens and praised his deep commitment to his hometown.

“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,” said Councilmember Francisco Moya, who succeeded Peralta as Assemblymember from District 39. “In private, Senator Peralta often had a gentle demeanor. But that belied the fierce fighter he was for the people whom he dedicated his life to representing. He was a tireless advocate for his constituents, our Dominican community and our neighborhoods. At the end of the day, his decisions were always motivated by a drive to bring his community everything it deserved.”

Moya said Peralta was a “kind man and a friend ... a terrific husband and an amazing father.”

Peralta was born in Washington Heights before moving to Queens, where he attended Flushing High School and later Queens College. He served as a community liaison for the State Assembly, performing outreach in the Latino community, and advocated for immigrants in the New York City Central Labor Council.

Peralta represented Senate District 13, which includes parts of Corona, Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, another Queens native, recognized Peralta’s advocacy on behalf of local immigrants, who made up a significant portion of his constituency.

“Senator Peralta was a dedicated public servant, a relentless advocate for Queens and a pioneer as the first Dominican-American elected to the New York State Senate,” Cuomo said. “He fought tirelessly to make a difference for others, and he will always be remembered for his service to Queens and to all New Yorkers. This is a reminder of how precious life is — hold your families a little bit closer today as we think about all we are thankful for.

Cuomo contributed $10,000 to a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Peralta’s memorial. The fundraiser had raised $12,800 in 20 hours as of Sunday afternoon.

Local organizations also recognized Peralta’s work on behalf of the Latino community.

“We shall reflect on the relentless leadership of one of the fiercest champions for Dreamers and steadfast advocacy of his community for years to come, the organization Somos wrote on Twitter.

Peralta was elected to the State Assembly in 2002 and served in the lower chamber until he won a special election to replace disgraced former State Sen. Hiram Monserrate in 2010.

Constituents placed flowers, candles and handwritten notes outside his office Thursday. “A kid from Corona who later in life gave everything for Corona,” read one message.

Throughout the summer, Peralta remained a prominent advocate for passage of the school speed camera bill, which he sponsored.

In 2017, Peralta joined the Independence Democratic Conference and caucused with Senate Republicans. He lost the Democratic primary for his Senate seat to Jessica Ramos in September.

"When I met him in 2003, I saw a world of promise for our community," Ramos wrote on Twitter. "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."

Peralta is survived by his wife Evelyn and two sons.