Photo Courtesy of Queens College
Senator Peralta died on the eve of Thanksgiving.
By Michael V. Cusenza
State Sen. Jose Peralta, the first Latino from Queens elected to the State Legislature, died last Wednesday night at Elmhurst Hospital. He was 47.
Though the official cause of death is sudden septic shock, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is still running tests to determine what led to the blood infection that ultimately took the lawmaker’s life.
“The senator’s family asks for privacy as they grieve. We are deeply grateful for the outpouring of support and love we’ve received amid this heartbreaking loss,” Peralta spokesman Chris Sosa wrote in a statement issued on Thanksgiving.
Jose Rafael Peralta was a first-generation Dominican-American who was born in Washington Heights. The Peralta family moved to The World’s Borough when Jose was 8 years old. He would go on to graduate from Flushing High School and earn a degree in psychology from Queens College, where he was the first Latino Student Body President.
“Jose was a true friend to the college, to the City University of New York, and to me,” said Queens College President Félix Matos Rodríguez. “Jose’s passing leaves all of us empty of his energetic and always upbeat, positive presence. We remain inspired by his enduring commitment to public service in Western Queens and all that he did on behalf of his community and extend our deepest condolences to his family.”
After graduating, Peralta worked as a community liaison in the Assembly and as a staffer on the election campaigns of State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing), Hillary Clinton, Alan Hevesi, and Brian McLaughlin. Bitten by the proverbial political bug, Peralta ran for the Assembly District 39 (Corona, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights) seat in 2002 and won in a landslide.
“We are saddened by the sudden passing of Senator Jose Peralta,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. “Jose, who began his legislative career in the People’s House, was a strong voice for working families. He was determined to strengthen New York’s public schools and gun safety measures, and fight for rights for immigrants. He was a friend and a true public servant. On behalf of his New York State Assembly family, I offer our deepest condolences to his family, friends and constituents.”
He served in the Assembly until March 2010, when he won a special election to fill the State Senate District 13 seat left vacant after Hiram Monserrate was expelled. Peralta represented the interests of the residents and business owners of Corona, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, and Woodside in the State Senate for the last 10 years, serving on the committees on Cities, Finance, Banks, Education, Higher Education, Transportation, Energy and Telecommunications, and Codes. He was also a member of the Latino Caucus.
Earlier this year, Peralta lost the District 13 Democratic primary to the eventual State Senator-elect Jessica Ramos. The defeat was largely attributed to Peralta’s decision to join the now-defunct Independent Democratic Caucus in 2017.
“Even after losing his primary election last September, his constituents remained his top priority,” Heastie noted. “Just days ago, Jose was coordinating a flu shot clinic in his district and distributing turkeys for those in need this Thanksgiving.”