By LOUIS FLORES
New York State Sen. José Peralta (D-Jackson Heights) has yet to confirm whether he will attend a town hall meeting arranged by his constituents scheduled for Monday evening in Jackson Heights. State Sen. Peralta's office did not answer several requests made by Progress Queens to determine whether the State legislator would be attending Monday evening's scheduled town hall.
Monday's town hall meeting was scheduled to take place after the conclusion of the current legislative session in Albany, which is expected to draw to a close on Wednesday, according to information obtained by Progress Queens. In the past, State Sen. Peralta had promised to hold periodic town hall meetings with his constituents. Various constituents planned Monday night's town hall meeting as a follow-up to a previous community meeting, held last February, at which State Sen. Peralta made a "commitment to have these dialogues with you, with the community," according to an excerpted video recording posted to YouTube of the February town hall event.
The February town hall event, similarly organised by constituents, was held not long after State Sen. Peralta joined a breakaway group of Democratic Party legislators known as the Independent Democratic Conference, or IDC. That town hall event was overwhelmed by constituents, many of whom were denied entry due to capacity restrictions of the venue, and some constituents said that they felt that they were denied an opportunity to ask State Sen. Peralta questions about his decision to conference with the IDC. During that town hall, many residents, who were denied entry, remained outside the venue during the town hall in protest.
The IDC has faced criticism from Government reform activists, notably from the political left, that the IDC's power-sharing agreement with State Republican Party officials undermines the possibility of passing a more progressive agenda in the form of state legislation. The timing of State Sen. Peralta's reconferencing triggered community backlash, due to escalated efforts by Republican Party officials to radically change public policy. One area of such change would have affected immigration, which critics described as possibly jeopardising the safety of undocumented immigrants. At that time then, immigration had moved to the fore in the public's consciousness for two prominent reasons. First, State Senator Terrence Murphy (R-Hudson Valley) had proposed legislation to prevent the destruction of New York City records that could reveal the immigration status of some New York City residents, and second, President Donald Trump had rolled out by executive order a controversial Muslim travel ban that was ultimately ruled unconstitutional during Federal litigation proceedings.
In the time since Sen. Peralta began conferencing with the IDC, he has faced criticism that the power-sharing agreement between the breakaway group of Democrats and Republican State Senators has stymied reform and accountability. At the packed town hall last February, Sen. Peralta found himself opposite some constituents, who, at times discordant, expressed a sense of political betrayal by Sen. Peralta's abandonment of the mainline Democratic Party conference. State Sen. Peralta's critics have cited the annual failure to pass through the State Legislature the DREAM Act or the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act, or GENDA, as examples of forgone opportunities for social, legal, and economic progress that have been a consequence of the IDC's powersharing agreement with the conservative State Republican Party. The Dream Act is a Democratic Party-supported legislative proposal that would provide state college tuition assistance to the children of undocumented immigrants. Meanwhile, GENDA would prohibit discrimination in various laws based on a person's gender identity or gender expression, and it would have added offenses made based on a person's gender identity or gender expression to the State's hate crime statute.
In the wake of some of the criticism over his decision to conference with the IDC, State Sen. Peralta denied that he made the switch for financial considerations, describing as false the accusations that improving his personal finances served as a motivation for his political move. (State Sen. Peralta's denials appeared to answer accusations made in a report published by The New York Post, which stated that State Sen. Peralta was under financial pressure.) However, a report published last month by The New York Times revealed that State Sen. Peralta received a stipend worth nearly $10,000 for a committee chair position that he did not hold. The stipend was requested to be paid by New York State Senate officials after State Sen. Peralta began conferencing with the IDC, according to information in The New York Times' report.
Perhaps as a result of criticism he has faced, State Sen. Peralta has demonstrated political sensitivity on some issues important to his critics, notably on immigration. On Monday, State Sen. Peralta reportedly filed a letter with the Office of the New York State Attorney General, complaining about a landlord that has allegedly made threats against tenants over their immigration status, according to a report published by The New York Daily News. State Sen. Peralta's office did not immediately answer a request made by Progress Queens for a copy of the letter he filed with the State prosecutors' office.
Politically-active constituents represented by State Sen. Peralta said that they hoped that he would attend the town hall meeting scheduled for Monday evening. Susan Kang, a Jackson Heights resident and an organiser of the town hall meeting, said that the community was seeking to discuss issues important in State Sen. Peralta's constituents. "We are calling this town hall, because we would like to continue the conversation we had back in February. Now that the session is over, we hope Sen. Peralta can join us for two hours in our neighborhood," Ms. Kang said, referring to the expected duration of the town hall, adding that, "We're interested in what he has to say, and we hope he's interested in our questions."
It has been speculated that State Sen. Peralta may be weighing a decision to run for a seat in the New York City Council, according to information obtained by Progress Queens. An official with the Queens Democratic County Committee predicted that State Sen. Peralta would face political hurdles if he were to try to attempt such a run, according to a report published by POLITICO New York. Were State Sen. Peralta able to win a seat in the Municipal legislature, he would receive an estimated 50 per cent. pay increase, according to the report.
- After GENDA's failure, LGBT Democrats in New York still doing same thing over and over again, says activist [Progress Queens]
- After Peralta joins IDC, the GOP-controlled State Senate it enables is about to enter immigration fray [Progress Queens]
- City Council speakership race, upended by Ferreras-Copeland decision, may remain opaque [Progress Queens]