State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) said he would like to be a borough president who combines the salesmanship qualities of Brooklyn’s Marty Markowitz and the wide-reaching influence of Queens’ Claire Shulman.
“You will see me front and center,” Peralta said as he prepares for a 2013 run.
The senator, who took office in 2010 following the ousting of former Sen. Hiram Monserrate, spoke of future plans and current concerns in a meeting with TimesLedger Newspapers staff and editors last week.
Peralta said he was interested in running for the top spot in Queens to shepherd future economic development forecast in neighborhoods such as Willets Point, Long Island City and the Rockaways. He said he wanted to mesh Markowitz’s cheerleading for his home borough with Shulman’s ability to attract big businesses. The former Queens borough president served from 1986-2002.?
“We really need to be sure someone is at the helm sort of making it happen,” Peralta said.
City Councilmen Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) as well as former Forest Hills Councilwoman Melinda Katz are also running.
The senator said that if elected he would want to forge relationships between city and state legislators to bring back resources to the borough, encouraging legislators to vote and work together as a bloc instead of simply for their own district. Peralta, who worked with the city Central Labor Council and seven years in the state Assembly, said he has made an effort throughout his political career to work with many different types of people and leaders in the community.
He is one of the principal members of the Unity Team, a group formed by the elected officials of Jackson Heights and Corona, to share ideas and rid the political culture of the infighting left over from former state Sen. Hiram Monserrate, who was convicted of misdemeanor assault in an incident that left his girlfriend’s face slashed before being ousted by the Senate. Peralta won his seat in a special election.
“I work well with everyone,” Peralta said. “I even talk to the Republicans. It’s something that you need to do to be successful.”
Peralta does not have an opponent in his 2012 race for another term in the Senate, but due to this year’s controversial redistricting process, his district will lose a chunk of Elmhurst but gain parts of Woodside and Astoria in 2013. The new lines have had him showing up at community meetings and knocking on doors of those new constituents.
“I have to introduce myself to those individuals,” he said.
Meanwhile, Peralta said business in Albany has been going well under Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He described the governor as working hard to move issues through the Legislature, like tax reduction for the middle class, pension reform and same-sex marriage.
“It’s let’s get down to business, let’s do what we have to get done for the people of the state of New York,” Peralta said.
As the Democratic minority whip, Peralta focused on getting the party in line on same-sex marriage last year. Now he is turning his attention to gun control. Peralta has been advocating for many months for the microstamping of bullets, which would imprint markings on a bullet allowing law enforcement to trace the gun from which the bullet was fired.?
“It’s a hot issue for Republicans,” Peralta said. “They don’t want to talk about it.”
But he said he is also focusing on a bill to require background checks for those buying ammunition and forbidding the violently mentally ill from buying guns, which he characterizes as “common sense” legislation that he hopes the other side of the aisle will eventually support.
“If we can stop one person who’s going to do something off-the-wall, I’ll take it,” he said.
Back in his home district, much of Peralta’s efforts have been concentrated on how to combat crime on Roosevelt Avenue. The thoroughfare, which the senator called “the new Times Square,” has been known as a hotbed of crimes such as robberies and other thefts, the sale of fake IDs and illegal alcohol and prostitution and sex trafficking.
Sex trafficking has been a particular focus for the senator. Peralta has sponsored legislation to ban the distribution of “chica chica” cards, which use naked women to advertise prostitutes. Most recently, he has worked to distribute fliers in small businesses around his district informing trafficked women that they can call 311 if they need help escaping that life.
“A lot of people don’t understand that there’s a victim in this situation,” he said.
On the other side, Peralta also emphasized that to fight crime, a positive relationship needs to exist between the residents and the police. He called a recent New York Times report that the 115th Precinct was one of four in the city where the police were most likely to use force in making stop-and-frisks “alarming.” He said he was in contact with NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly for an explanation.
“There is no need for that,” Peralta said, “especially when you’re stopping 100 people and only arresting four or five.”