BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Fury warmed Jackson Heights residents last night as they rallied in freezing temperatures, and called for state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) to return to the Democratic Caucus or resign.
Leading the rally were Council members Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), who demanded that Peralta not only go back to the Democratic Caucus, but also that the Independent Democratic Conference disband.
“This is how change happens, and the message we are sending here tonight will reverberate all over the state of New York,” Dromm said. “We want Democrats, real Democrats that are not going to turn around and say that they are going to caucus with the Republicans, elected to the New York state Senate. When we got sick of politics as usual in the New York City Council, we didn’t join with the Republicans, while there [are] only three of them, what we did was form a progressive caucus.”
The councilmen also expressed their frustration towards state Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) calling the Jackson Heights community racist for attacking Peralta’s decision to join the IDC, and demanded that he apologize.
“We went out and petitioned for Peralta, and asked people to vote for him, so it is particularly offensive to me when Jeff Klein said that we are outside agitators,” Dromm said. “We are not outside agitators; we are members of this community. Nor are we racist. We elected him, the first Dominican man.”
Constantinides said he remembers petitioning in 2010, knocking on doors and assisting Peralta throughout his campaign. And, for that reason, he feels that Peralta betrayed the community “by joining the caucus of the party of trump” at a time when the community’s values are under attack.
“I want to emphasize that this is a grassroots movement,” said Susan Kang, who organized the rally. “This is a result of citizens getting together and saying this is not okay. We elected Democrats to provoke a progressive agenda in Albany. Albany is broken and it will continue to stay broken and the IDC is one of the main reasons why. It is not only the constituents of the senators in the IDC that are hurt by this decision; it’s all of New York State. These senators are keeping all of New York state hostage from the progressive policies we deserve and we voted for.”
A New York City teacher who spoke at the rally said that more than 2,000 people voted for Peralta in November 2016 and that he hasn’t felt the need to be responsive.
Raul Garcia, who said he personally worked for Peralta during his campaign, addressed the topic that spearheaded Peralta’s town hall last week, which was the fact that he had not announced joining the IDC prior to his reelection.
“I not only ask that Peralta come back to the Democratic Party, but to resign,” Garcia said. “At this time, we need a senator with a backbone to stand up for the community.”
The Queens Tribune reached out to Peralta for a comment on the rally. He said, “While I understand that some of my constituents are frustrated with what is happening on the federal level that may trickle down and negatively affect us as a state, now more than ever we cannot sit on the sidelines and not have a place at the table. This is why I am providing real results for my constituents by having forums like the one I held Wednesday night at P.S. 19 with leading experts on immigration. My efforts include providing a 1-800 emergency hotline number for legal assistance through the Independent Democratic Conference’s Sanctuary Senate District program. And, Thursday night, I met with community leaders and the National Action Network to help resolve deficiencies in infrastructure that have been plaguing East Elmhurst for years. I look forward to continuing delivering results for my community and having a healthy debate.”
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144 or firstname.lastname@example.org