June 27, By Jason Cohen
In February, when State Senator Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights) held a tense meeting following his controversial decision to join forces with the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), he pledged that he would hold a second town hall meeting after the budget was passed.
Last night several local groups organized that town hall meeting for him, but Peralta failed to show. The meeting, called “Where is Peralta?” took place at the Jackson Heights Jewish Center and was organized by Citizens of District 13 along with Queens Neighborhoods United and an array of other groups.
Peralta, who issued a statement after the town hall, said that he gets invited to many events and was instead at a meeting with constituents from the Ericsson Street Block Association of 27th and 29th Avenues.
He also said that he decided not to go because he had never heard of the group Citizens of District 13. He added that the group also “appeared more focused on furthering a counterproductive anti-Independent Democratic Conference agenda than taking any action that has to do with a healthy and constructive debate about the future of this district.”
“While some seek to politically grandstand by promoting rallies and town halls, I am busy protecting immigrant tenants from heartless landlords, and making sure New Yorkers are protected from lead paint chips falling onto the streets and sidewalks from elevated subway tracks,” Peralta said in a statement. “I have been fighting tirelessly to provide funding to our local schools for capital improvements, smart boards, laptops. I am also bringing results like securing $1.1 billion for the public school system, which should result in $18.3 million for schools in my district.”
Peralta has faced a lot of backlash since he joined the IDC in January, a breakaway group of Democrats who have joined forces with Senate Republicans to form a majority.
Susan Kang, a Jackson Heights resident and member of No IDC, said that well over 100 people turned out last night. She said the event was standing room only with attendees spilling out into the foyer.
Kang noted that residents asked Peralta to attend on June 14 and this should have given him sufficient time to make any changes necessary to his schedule.
Although he did not attend, Kang said a lot was accomplished. The attendees used the opportunity to educate each other about the IDC and key issues that were not addressed in this legislative session. These included single payer health care, immigrant rights, education funding and criminal justice reform.
“While speakers and other attendees were disappointed that Peralta chose to attend a small block association event rather than follow up on his commitment to his constituents made in February, we are energized about continuing to hold Peralta accountable,” Kang explained. “We would like to encourage Senator Peralta to organize a town hall for his constituents on the issues we discussed and to continue the conversation he started in February, as he promised.”