The late State Senator Jose Peralta (D-Corona, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Woodside) was laid to rest today as hundreds of elected officials and community members joined his family members to say their last goodbyes.
Peralta’s funeral was held at the St. Joan of Arc Roman Catholic Church, 82-00 35th Avenue in Jackson Heights, where residents and elected officials from all parts of the city gathered to remember the legendary politician.
Evelyn Peralta, Jose’s widow recounted their short but loving life together, and the late senator’s dedication for public service.
“No one is ever going to be able to replace him. It is going to be difficult to put into words how much he meant to me and how much I will miss him. We met on the 7 train, we saw each other at least once or twice a week for a few months before he decided to approach me at Grand Central Station. Our fairytale relationship began there because I had finally found a partner who was compassionate, hardworking, intellectually stimulating and had so many aspirations. I shared him with his community but I understood the terms of it because I knew it was his passion,” said Evelyn.
Peralta was the first Dominican-American elected to the New York State Senate back in 2010 and was the lead sponsor in the state DREAM Act, a measure that would allow undocumented immigrants to qualify for state-funded financial aid for college.
“This is real proof of who Peralta was. He was a guy that was there to build bridges and to bring people together, no matter who they were or where they came from. I was one of the first people to welcome Peralta in the State and was very impressed by his dynamism,” said Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D-Brooklyn).
“He was very determined and serious about the DREAM Act. He will be missed, and we still have a lot o f work to do on his behalf to hopefully get the legislation passed soon,” he added.
Proponents of the bill are now pushing for the legislation to be renamed in honor of Peralta, when the state legislature goes back into session on Jan. 9. The measure, long stalled in the state senate, now has a good chance at passing as Democrats have won control of the upper legislative branch in this month’s general election.
Among the mourners was Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, State Sen. Kevin Parker, Assembly members Latrice Walker, Jo Anne Simon, N. Nick Perry, Tremaine Wright and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
Also present at the service was State Sen. Diane Savino (D-Bensonhurst, Brighton Beach, Coney Island, Dyker Heights, Gravesend, Sunset Park, Staten Island), one of Peralta’s colleagues in the former Independent Democratic Conference, (IDC) the controversial breakaway group that formed a coalition with former ruling Republicans in the state senate.
“He was and always has been a fierce advocate for workers and his community. All he ever wanted to do was make a difference,” read a social media post from Savino.
The now defunct political coalition also included State Senator Jesse Hamilton (D-Central Brooklyn) who praised Peralta’s political legacy.
“I am deeply saddened by his loss. I treasure the opportunity I had to know José as a colleague, as a passionate advocate for all our communities, and as a friend. As we all give thanks with loved ones today, I give thanks for José’s spirit as a dedicated public servant. I appreciate his more than two decades of public service – from upholding workers’ rights and strengthening unions in our communities to fighting for the New York State DREAM Act and to ensure street safety around our schools,” said Hamilton
Peralta died last Wednesday, Nov. 21 on Thanksgiving eve. The Dominican-American, 47, was pronounced dead at 8 p.m. at Elmhurst Hospital Center with his family at his side. Initially, it was reported that he suffered a fatal heart attack, but according to media outlets his wife stated he died from septic shock, an unusual condition where the immune system overreacts to an infection and releases chemicals into the blood that causes widespread inflammation.
José Rafael Peralta was born on Nov. 10, 1971, in New York City, to parents who had emigrated from the Dominican Republic.
He began his political career as a Queens community liaison to the State Assembly and went on to win a seat in the Assembly, where he served from 2002-2010.
Peralta is survived by his wife, Evelyn, and their two sons, 13-year-old Myles and a 21-year-old Matthew.
Following the funeral, Peralta was laid to rest at St. Michael’s Cemetery, 72-02 Astoria Boulevard in East Elmhurst.