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Funeral services were held this week for the late State Sen. Jose Peralta. The 47-year-old politician, who represented the State Senate’s 13th District in Queens, died last Wednesday.
Mourners packed the Saint Joan of Arc Roman Catholic Church in Jackson Heights, Queens Tuesday to pay their respects to Peralta, who was the first Dominican-American elected to the State Senate. State flags were ordered to fly at half-staff in Peralta’s honor by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Just days before his death, Peralta coordinated a flu shot clinic in his district and distributed turkeys to those in need this Thanksgiving.
“Jose, who began his legislative career in the People’s House, was a strong voice for working families,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said in a statement. “He was determined to strengthen New York’s public schools and gun safety measures, and fight for rights for immigrants. Even after losing his primary election last September, his constituents remained his top priority.”
Raised in Queens, Peralta graduated from Flushing High School and later graduated from Queens College, where he was elected the school’s first Latino student body president. He first entered politics when he was a community liaison in the New York State Assembly.
Peralta was first elected to the State Assembly in 2002, representing District 39, becoming first Hispanic from Queens to win an election to serve in the Assembly.
In 2010, Peralta was elected to the New York State Senate during a special election after former State Senator Hiram Monserrate’s expulsion. Peralta did not win the 2018 Democratic primary, being defeated by Jessica Ramos.
During his time in the Senate, Peralta was an advocate from immigrant rights and was a proponent of the New York State DREAM Act, which eliminates potential obstacles to obtaining state financial aid for undocumented students seeking to attend college. A proposal has been put forth to rename the legislation after Peralta.
“As a main sponsor of the New York State DREAM Act, Senator Peralta believed wholeheartedly that we each have an obligation to ensure equal opportunities for the advancement of all persons,” said Congressman Adriano Espaillat. “Renaming the New York State DREAM Act in his honor would be a fitting tribute to his legacy and the work that will continue for generations to come.”
Peralta is survived by his wife and two sons.