State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) defended his decision to defect to the Independent Democratic Conference last week, after close to 50 residents and two of his colleagues in government protested the move in the heart of his district last Thursday.
“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,” Peralta said in a statement last Friday. “This is why I am providing real results for my constituents by having forums like the one I held Wednesday night at PS 19 with leading experts on immigration.”
But the protesters, joined by Council members Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) instead saw the senator’s move as siding with Republicans — which, to them, means backing the policies of President Trump.
“And that means you’re answering to Vladimir Putin,” quipped resident Justin Warner, citing Trump’s alleged ties to the Kremlin.
Dromm, in an interview before the rally, said he was “disappointed a colleague and a friend has decided to side with the Republicans.”
The councilman, whose district overlaps with Peralta, said he wanted to see the senator return to the mainline Democratic conference and demanded he urge state Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx, Westchester) — head of the IDC — to apologize for calling Jackson Heights protesters and those in districts of other IDC senators “outside agitators and racists.”
Klein made those allegations during an interview with the Albany Times Union, saying, “All of a sudden now they’re being attacked, that somehow now the decision was financially motivated, because of child support payments and everything else? That’s obnoxious — and yes, that is racist.”
Peralta did not address if he had any conversations with Klein about the remarks.
Constantinides, addressing Klein’s comments, said “we were the ones who got [Peralta] elected.”
He also called for the IDC to “disband and come back home to the Democratic party. It’s time to get real progressive values back to our neighborhoods, our city and our state.”
The IDC is a group of eight breakaway Democratic senators who share power with the Republicans, keeping the GOP in power though they’re outnumbered 32-31.
Peralta was announced last month as its latest member, sparking outrage from his constituents who said he was turning his back on the widely liberal district.
He attempted to defend his decision early this month at a contentious town hall, which ended in him escaping through a backdoor and into his car as more than 100 people outside the Jackson Heights Jewish Center protested his decision.
Shekar Krishnan, president of the Jackson Heights-based New Visions Democratic Club, called for Peralta to be a true Democrat, in name and action.
“Being a Democrat today, especially in these times, means so much more than your party registration or how you vote,” Krishnan said. “It means standing together in solidarity. It means standing together and fighting, even when the numbers are against us.”
Peralta ended his statement by saying, “I look forward to continuing delivering results for my community and having a healthy debate.”
Both the headline of this article and the caption to its photo originally used words implying a smaller turnout at the protest than there actually was. We regret the errors.