State Senator Jose Peralta hosted a forum for restaurateurs and small business owners to learn about proposed changes to the restaurant letter-grade and fine system, the new paid sick leave law and securing access to capital.
Few politicians aspire to bring the ambiance of Times Square to their districts, but state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) said a stretch of Roosevelt Avenue that has grown saturated with prostitution could use some of the sterilization that transformed Times Square in the 1980s.
While speaking at Queensborough Community College April 3, Peralta described various legislative endeavors to crack down on sex traffickers and prostitution businesses and fund organizations that provide pathways out of the industry for victims.
The senator said afterward he believed recruiting Disney to open a store in Times Square anchored commercial development and ushered in an era of strict policing.
“We don’t need to bring in the big, big box store on Roosevelt Avenue — a mid-size box store,” Peralta said, noting he wanted to “keep the flavor of the mom-and-pop shops” nearby.
But the senator emphasized that wooing Disney took assistance from federal, state and local officials, and he is hoping Mayor Bill de Blasio would join him and U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) in scouting for a Roosevelt Avenue anchor.
As Times Square spurned prostitution, the industry migrated along the No. 7 train line, and Peralta said businesses began offering free car service to patrons from midtown to Corona and Jackson Heights.
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) addressed an audience of over 200 students and faculty at Queensborough Community College in Bayside last Thursday on “Human Trafficking in Our Own Backyard,” drawing a near-capacity crowd.
The talk was the culminating event of a three-week-long ongoing series of related activities, all part of the college’s Common Read Initiative, inspired this year by the featured text, “The Road to Lost Innocence,” the true story of a Cambodian woman who overcame great obstacles and used her experiences to help others stand up for human rights.
The book, written by Somaly Mam based on her own life of abuse in Cambodian brothels, had become a shared reading experience by some 1,300 students and over 35 faculty members from across academic disciplines.
The senator focused on problems relating to human trafficking which, he indicated, runs rampant along Roosevelt Avenue, particularly between 69th and 112th streets.
So-called chica cards, featuring what Peralta described as “degrading pictures of women,” are commonly distributed in the area, so commonplace that “children trade them like baseball cards.”
Peralta indicated that “many women from around the world are brought to Queens and enslaved. The victims are very afraid,” and sometimes seen by the law as criminals. He pointed out that some members of the taxi industry are known to have been “involved in moving these women along. There are those bad apples that perpetuate this crime.”
He said that often these women who come to this country to live the American dream instead “live that American nightmare.” There is a need, he said, to “toughen laws.”
State Senate leaders are balking at efforts to give the DREAM Act a second life as part of the state’s budget.
The measure, which came two votes short of approval in the Senate earlier this week, is not being discussed in budget negotiations, said Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Conference.
The DREAM Act would enable the children of undocumented immigrants to receive state tuition assistance. After the bill failed in the Senate, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) said he would push to include as part of the budget.
Students and activists rallied outside Gov. Cuomo’s office Thursday pushing for him to include the DREAM Act in the budget.
Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) and Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Queens) also sent a letter to Cuomo urging him to push for the measure in the budget.
There has been a great deal of heated debate recently about the place of charter schools in the public education system and how to best pay for making full-day prekindergarten available to every eligible child.
Often lost in the rhetorical bomb throwing and lawsuit filing is this: Adding charter schools and finally making prekindergarten truly universal calls for more school buildings. Lots of them.
If all children, no matter where they live or how much money their parents have, are to get a genuine chance to succeed in school, we need to provide them with real classrooms in which to learn.
For decades — not years, but decades — the children of hardworking immigrant families in the Corona and Elmhurst neighborhoods I represent have had to try to learn in deplorable facilities no one would expect to find in the wealthiest city in the richest country on the planet.
Forget state-of-the-art technology, the dilapidated “temporary” classroom units many of our kids are stuck in do not even have bathrooms. Stories of elementary schoolchildren straining to “hold it in” for hours — not always successfully — are not unusual.
How can a poor kid feeling as if his bladder is about to burst possibly pay attention to anything a teacher says? That kind of situation is as unacceptable as it is disgraceful for a great city like ours.
As a state legislator, charter school parent and graduate of the city’s public school system, I have an enormous stake in the ongoing debate on prekindergarten and charter schools.
Mayor Bill de Blasio campaigned on a promise to lower fines against small businesses, criticizing what he deemed the punitive, "revenue-focused" enforcement of city laws.
But his preliminary budget indicates that his administration plans to collect even more in levies than city agencies did under Michael Bloomberg last year.
Revenue from fines soared 72% during the Bloomberg administration, to $799 million in 2013 from $467 million in 2002. The initial de Blasio budget unveiled last month indicates that fine revenue will grow to $807.5 million this year. That's just $5 million less than the Bloomberg administration had projected for 2014.
"There was a sigh of relief among small business owners when this mayor was elected," said Queens state Sen. Jose Peralta. "There hasn't been much to show so far, though, and a lot of business owners are getting nervous. You have to give the mayor time to breathe and soak it all in, but it's now time to tackle this in a positive way."
A day after Mr. de Blasio signed the legislation, the City Council issued rules putting into effect a law signed by Mr. Bloomberg to reduce fines against restaurants. Those changes are part of a wider overhaul of the city's letter-grading system for eateries and the suspected quota system that has led to an outcry from inspectors and restaurateurs.
In the meantime, Mr. Peralta has called on the mayor to adopt an amnesty program under which proprietors can seek to have fines incurred during the Bloomberg administration dismissed by the new mayor.
I would call them the legion of gloom and doom, but that would greatly exaggerate their numbers and significance.
I am talking about the people trying to sell the idea that Monday’s state Senate vote on the DREAM Act — 30 in favor, 29 opposed — was somehow a “near-fatal blow” or an “enormous setback” because the bill, which would grant state tuition aid to undocumented immigrants, fell two votes short of passing.
That prognosis is entirely blind to political reality or is the product of wishful thinking.
The conventional wisdom back in the summer, when planning for the current legislative session began, was that election-year dynamics would keep the DREAM Act from making any kind of progress during the 2014 legislative session.
What nobody saw coming back then was the wave of progressive zeal that would be ushered in by the election of Mayor de Blasio.
"And clearly there is the political will for campaign financing, but not for helping young immigrants get a college degree.
“Senate Republicans argued against using tax dollars for campaign financing, just as they had previously argued against spending tax revenue on the DREAM Act.
"But whereas the Senate’s house budget features campaign financing, it excludes the DREAM Act, kicking to the curb, yet again, the hopes and aspirations of young people whose zeal to live, work, pay taxes and prosper in this great country is being held against them.
"I am happy about the inclusion of campaign financing, which I wholeheartedly support. I am deeply disappointed and frustrated by the exclusion of the DREAM Act.
"I call on the governor and my Republican Senate colleagues to seize the opportunitywe have here in New York to build on the growing national consensus around theneed for immigration reform and the obvious economic benefits of doing right by our young people.”
Sen. Jose Peralta, a Democrat and prime sponsor of a bill to create a state DREAM Act, invoked conservative Texas Gov. Rick Perry in urging his Republican colleagues to support the measure.
"We have an opportunity here in New York to build on the growing national consensus, among business, labor and Republican and Democratic leaders, on both the need for immigration reform and the obvious economic benefits of reform.”
The Peralta DREAM Act bill would allow allow state financial assistance to go to the college kids of illegal immigrants.
Perry signed a different version of the DREAM Act that allows the kids of undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at Texas state colleges.
Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Queens) sent a letter Thursday to the co-leaders of the chamber asking they include funding for a state DREAM Act in their upcoming budget resolution.
The Assembly, which recently passed legislation to create a state DREAM Act to provide state financial assistance to the college kids of undocumented immigrants, is expected to include funding for the measure in its one-house budget resolution next week.
Stewart-Cousins and Peralta, the Senate DREAM Act sponsor, asks Senate co-Leaders Dean Skelos (R-Nassau County) and Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx) to follow suit., saying it would signal the support needed to keep the issue in the upcoming budget talks.
Pedestrian safety has become a hot topic in Queens, and state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) used the opportunity to renew his push for safer streets outside a public school in Rego Park.
Peralta has been calling for safety reforms, such as speed cameras and assigning a new crossing guard to PS 206, for the better part of the past year. And with recent launching of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative to curb traffic fatalities throughout the city, the senator said he hoped his requests would gather more traction.
"Finally making prekindergarten truly universal and adding charters calls for more school buildings. Lots of them. In my district, schools aren't equipped to meet the demand for kindergarten seats, let alone offer prekindergarten to every eligible child. School overcrowding has been severe here decades.
"In a place as densely populated as New York City, space for classrooms, or anything else, is hard to come by and expensive.
"But whether we want to expand prekindergarten, add charters or finally relieve the suffocating overcrowding that has long plagued my community's schools, we have no choice but to find the space and the money to pay for it.
"Accuse me of stating the obvious, but this seems to be an especially good time to again plead the case for more classrooms."
“Washington is on the verge of becoming the fourth state to provide college financial aid to undocumented immigrants, after the legislature there last night passed the state’s own DREAM Act with strong bi-partisan support.
“Here in New York, making the DREAM Act a reality will also require support across conferences. Fortunately, there is a growing consensus among business, labor and Republican and Democratic leaders across the country, both on the need for immigration reform and the obvious economic benefits of reform. We saw evidence of that last night in Washington.
“That consensus is building because of the growing recognition that the DREAM Act is an investment in the workforce of tomorrow that would pay for itself many times over in increased tax revenues; and that with the demand for higher-skilled workers increasing, it only makes sense to encourage our young people to pursue higher education
“There is also an increasing realization that the young people who would benefit from the DREAM Act are as American as Thanksgiving. They arrived at an early age and don’t know any country but the United States. Their hearts are here and so are there futures.
“Let’s help them better provide for themselves and their families, contribute more to the economy and fully integrate into the American mainstream.”
"Senator Ball’s overheated anti-immigrant rhetoric stands in stark contrast with the view of many in law enforcement.
"Senator Ball seems not to be aware that municipal IDs have been used for years in cities from New Haven, Connecticut, to San Francisco, California, where they have greatly improved cooperation between immigrant communities and law enforcement.
"He also seems unaware that all immigrant driver’s licenses, including the one I have proposed in New York and those already in place in 11 states and Washington D.C., must be clearly distinguishable and meet with the approval of the Department of Homeland Security.
"With municipal ID’s and driver’s licenses, undocumented immigrants today would be able to better provide for their families, contribute more to the economy and fully integrate into the American mainstream, just as generations of immigrants to this country have before them.
"Lumping these hard-working immigrants in with terrorists is the worst kind of irresponsible."
Catholic bishops in New York are calling the DREAM Act one of the church’s top priorities for this year’s legislative session. The Church also supports immigration reform on a national level. But with those efforts stalled, attention is shifting to the states, and in this case, the state senate, where it looks like there are not enough votes to pass the bill.
Senator Jose Peralta is trying to convince his colleagues to change their minds. He joined us to discuss.
ALBANY — Timothy Cardinal Dolan and the state's Catholic bishops have come out strongly in favor of creating a state DREAM Act allowing state financial aid to go to the college kids of undocumented immigrants.
"It's one of our top priorities this year," state Catholic Conference spokesman Dennis Poust said.
The Catholic Conference, a strong advocate for national immigration reform, views the DREAM Act legislation sponsored by Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Queens) and Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Queens) as something the state can do in the interim.
On February 4, the Massachusetts State Legislature will begin considering driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants.
In New York State, Senator Jose Peralta is about to introduce legislation in Albany to make this happen also.
We believe New York Governor Andrew Cuomo should act swiftly if the bill makes its way through the legislature and indeed, should be an advocate for it from day one.
“This legislation will also help make all New Yorkers safer by allowing us to identify everyone who drives on our roads and ensure that they are properly credentialed, educated and operating registered, inspected and insured vehicles,” Peralta said.
Citing a “broken promise” to rehire union workers, Jackson Heights residents, union members and elected officials staged a protest on Wednesday outside a new supermarket on 37th Avenue set to open this week.
Standing next to a giant inflatable rat, protesters pledged to boycott Global Supermarket at 75-07 37 Ave. over the choice of the new owner, Mohammad Haque, not to rehire union workers of Local 338 and Local 342 who were unexpectedly fired two weeks before Christmas by Frank Jaber, the owner of the former Trade Fair.
On Dec. 10 Jaber fired 50 employees and sold the store to Haque on Dec. 11.
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), who attended the protest said, “The new owner said he planned to hire at least some of the old workers back. Not a single one of them has been hired. We’re here to let the new ownership know that, with our voices and our wallets, we will be seeking justice for the exploited workers.”